Climate Change

Russia blocks UN resolution on climate change fearing unwarranted western intervention

On Monday, India voted ‘no’ as well, while China abstained from voting  

By Avantika Goswami
Published: Tuesday 14 December 2021
Russia blocks UN resolution on climate change fearing unwarranted western intervention Photo: United Nations

Russia vetoes the United Nations from resolving to define climate change as a threat to global peace and security. The resolution attempted to “securitise” climate action, an ominous term whose implications are unclear. 

The draft resolution was first proposed by Germany in the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) in 2020.

It was co-sponsored this year by Ireland and Niger, was blocked by Russia December 13, 2021, when India voted ‘no’ as well and China abstained from voting.

The resolution would have defined climate change as a threat to international peace and security. It was the result of many years of debate to determine whether the UNSC should incorporate climate change as a security risk. 

Action taken as part of the resolution can potentially range from sanctions on fossil-rich countries to UN military intervention in domestic conflicts perceived to have been caused by climate change. 

It called for “incorporating information on the security implications of climate change" into the UNSC’s strategies for managing conflicts and into peacekeeping operations, and asked that climate-related security risks should be made a “central component” of conflict prevention efforts. 

It also asked that the UN Secretary-General provide periodic reports on how risks from climate change can be addressed to prevent conflicts. It would be the first resolution devoted to social risks and conflicts arising from climate impacts and was supported by 113 UN member countries (of a total of 193), which includes 12 of the 15 UNSC members. 

The UNSC is often described as the “UN’s most powerful body”. It can impose sanctions and deploy “peacekeeping missions” that can involve military and police forces intervening in conflict zones. 

It has five permanent members, all of which are wealthy nations – China, the United States, the United Kingdom, France and Russia.  They all have veto power. 

Then, there are 10 elected members that serve two-year terms, with fixed numbers of seats allocated to countries from regions like the Asia-Pacific, Africa, among others. Unlike forums like the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) where decisions are made on a collaborative basis, the UNSC can determine if the “use of force” in the form of armed intervention is necessary against a particular state or entity. 

Russia opposed the resolution on the grounds that involving UNSC would politicise the issue of climate change and warrant unnecessary intervention by western countries in domestic issues.

A statement by the Russian Mission to the UN read: The penholders of the document were pushing it through without readiness to discuss the root causes of challenges that vulnerable countries face.

The Russian Mission added: 

The proposed document was coercing the Council to take a one-dimensional approach to conflicts and threats to international peace and security, i.e., through the climate lens. It was a generic proposal to establish this automatic link while neglecting all other aspects of situations in countries in conflict or countries lagging behind in their socio-economic development.

The statement also called the resolution an attempt to “shift the blame towards the developing countries themselves and to gain leverage in the Council to impose a particular vision with regard to fulfilment of climate commitments”.

India’s vote against the resolution was justified on the grounds that UNFCCC is the appropriate forum to implement climate action, not UNSC. “We will always speak up for the interests of the developing world, including Africa and the Sahel region. And we will do so at the right place — the UNFCCC,” said TS Trimurti, India’s permanent representative to the UN.

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