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US Joins UN Group of Nations on Climate and Security

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield speaks to reporters during a news conference, March 1, 2021, at United Nations headquarters.

The United States officially joined a U.N. group on climate and security on Thursday as part of the Biden administration’s focus on mitigating all impacts of the climate crisis.

“This is a critical issue for the United Nations, especially because the threat isn’t just to all of our climates. It’s also a collective security issue for all of us,” U.S. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield told reporters.

She noted that the Pentagon has declared climate change both a national security threat and a threat multiplier.

“That’s because unpredictable and extreme weather will make vital resources, like food and water, even more scarce in impoverished countries,” she said. “Scarcity spurs desperation, and desperation, of course, leads to violence.”

She said at the current pace, millions of people across the planet will be driven to mass migration due to the impacts of global warming, which would undermine peace and security.

“The good news is, we can build resilience, we can stave off security threats, and we can even generate economic opportunity, if we work together,” the ambassador said.

The U.N. Group of Friends on Climate and Security was created in 2018 and now, with the U.S., has 56 member states.

“The United States was instrumental to the development and ultimate adoption of the Paris Agreement,” said Margo Dieye, ambassador of Nauru, who along with Germany co-chairs the group.

“I expect that they will bring that same level of commitment to coordinated international action to the Group of Friends on Climate and Security,” Dieye said.

The Paris Climate Agreement, signed by virtually every country in the world, aims to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions and limit the planet’s temperature increase during this century to 2 degrees Celsius, while working to limit the increase even further to 1.5 degrees.

Among its goals, the Group of Friends hopes to get U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to appoint a special envoy on climate and security. Guterres already has two climate envoys: Michael Bloomberg, a former New York City mayor and Democratic presidential candidate, is the organization’s Special Envoy on Climate Ambition and Solutions; Canadian Mark Carney is the envoy in charge of financing for climate action.

Pivotal year

“2021 is a make-or-break year for collective action against the climate emergency,” Guterres told a Security Council meeting on the subject in February.

U.S. President Joe Biden will host a Leaders Summit on Climate later this month, and in November, nations will go to Glasgow, Scotland, for a review conference on implementation of the Paris Agreement.

While there has been progress, it has been insufficient to meet the agreement’s targets on time. Guterres hopes nations will step up their national commitments at the two meetings this year.

Biden has committed to putting climate at the center of his administration’s policies.

Hours after being sworn in on January 20, he signed the instrument to rejoin the 2015 Paris climate accord, from which former President Donald Trump withdrew the United States in 2017, saying it was “in America’s economic interest to do so.”

Biden also appointed former Secretary of State John Kerry as the United States’ first presidential envoy on climate and made him a part of his National Security Council.