Russia Vetoes Security Council Resolution Casting Climate Change as Threat to International Peace and Security

Seems like all that work was for naught. A years-long effort to make global warming more central to decision-making in the United Nation’s most powerful body sank when Russia vetoed the proposal, a proposal casting climate change as a threat to international peace and security.

The proposal called for “incorporating information on the security implications of climate change” into the council’s strategies for managing conflicts and into peacekeeping operations and political missions, at least sometimes. The measure also asked the U.N. secretary-general to make climate-related security risks “a central component” of conflict prevention efforts and to report on how to address those risks in specific hotspots.

The council has occasionally discussed the security implications of climate change since 2007, and it has passed resolutions that mention destabilizing effects of warming in specific places, such as various African countries and Iraq. But Monday’s resolution would have been the first devoted to climate-related security danger as an issue of its own.

Stronger storms, rising seas, more frequent floods and droughts and other effects of warming could inflame social tensions and conflict, potentially “posing a key risk to global peace, security and stability,” the proposed resolution said. Some 113 of the U.N.’s 193 member countries supported it, including 12 of the council’s 15 members.

But India and veto-wielding Russia voted no, while China abstained.

Russian Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia complained that Monday’s proposed resolution would turn “a scientific and economic issue into a politicized question,” divert the council’s attention from what he called “genuine” sources of conflict in various places and give the council a pretext to intervene in virtually any country on the planet. He also added that it would be a ticking time bomb.

India and China questioned the idea of tying conflict to climate, and they predicted trouble for the Glasgow commitments if the Security Council — a body that can impose sanctions and dispatch peacekeeping troops — started weighing in more.

“What the Security Council needs to do is not a political show,” Chinese Ambassador Zhang Jun said.

“Today was an opportunity for the council to recognize, for the first time, the reality of the world that we are living in and that climate change is increasing insecurity and instability,” Byrne Nason said. “Instead, we have missed the opportunity of action, and we look away from the realities of the world we are living in.”