Dr Sultan Al Jaber, the UAE's Special Envoy for Climate Change and Minister of Industry and Advanced Technology, on Wednesday said that billions of people were “highly vulnerable” to climate change and that more money was needed to adapt to a hotter planet.
He told an informal UN Security Council meeting that developing nations needed more finance to adapt to the impacts of rising temperatures and prevent wars from breaking out over scarce resources and sending refugees spilling across borders.
“Climate impacts are a matter of peace and security,” said Dr Al Jaber.
“These impacts are likely to drive significant displacement and competition over resources and, if not addressed, could be the source of many future conflicts.”
Citing UN figures, he said 3.6 billion people were now “highly vulnerable to the effects of climate change, particularly in fragile states” and added that mankind was “reaching the limits of adaptation”.
Developed nations agreed at a climate conference in Paris in 2015 to generate $100 billion in climate finance to assist poor countries each year — but have yet to come good on that pledge.
Dr Al Jaber said this had to change, pointing out that the UAE has provided more than $1bn in financial support to more than 40 nations in need, particularly poor nations and islands likely to be hit by rising sea levels.
“Robust, sustained and ambitious climate finance is a critical enabler of continued climate progress and risk reduction,” he said in his opening remarks. “Greater access to guaranteed finance is critical.”
Featured speakers included US climate envoy John Kerry, his German counterpart Jennifer Morgan and Alok Sharma, a British parliamentarian and president of last year’s Cop26 climate change meeting in Glasgow.
Mr Kerry said “trillions of dollars” were ultimately needed to tackle climate threats and that “no single government, no group of governments can meet the $2.5 to $4.6 trillion deficit that we face in order to effect this transition”.
“We have to work together to fund climate solutions,” said Mr Kerry.
“Without money, nobody is going to be able to make this transition the way we need to. And we need a safe and orderly transition, not a chaotic one.
“So, this is the decisive decade.”
Policymakers need to take the climate crisis more seriously, added Mr Kerry.
“If we legitimately treat this as the existential threat that it is, then we can lay the groundwork for building and rebuilding an even stronger, safer, healthier, more stable world,” he said.
Mr Sharma said climate change was already wreaking havoc, from locust swarms “decimating” crops in Ethiopia to Nepalese villagers fleeing their homes due to “melting glaciers and droughts”.
“That window of time that we have left to act is closing fast. So we must speed up the pace of change,” said Mr Sharma.
“As we move to clean energy systems, we can all benefit from the security provided by domestic renewable energy sources.”
Mr Sharma also called for greater “participation and leadership of women in climate action” to keep temperature rises within safe limits and “protect health, food security, and livelihoods” globally.
“The science is clear. We know what is coming and we know what we need to do,” said Mr Sharma.
“We must address the broad underlying factors and finance and deliver a sustainable, climate resilient future together.”
Other participants included Foreign Minister of Antigua and Barbuda Chet Greene, France’s Minister of the Ecological Transition Barbara Pompili and Bahrain's climate envoy Mohammed Mubarak bin Daina.
The UAE’s mission to the UN said in a statement that the meeting would address “climate finance in building and sustaining peace and stability in conflict, crisis and post-conflict situations”.
The UN’s climate change team defines climate finance as public and private fund-raising to fight global warming and help governments adapt to more droughts, floods and other effects of living on a hotter planet.
Envoys met in New York against a backdrop of gloomy forecasts on mankind’s efforts to keep global temperature rise well below the internationally-agreed benchmark of 2°C, compared to pre-industrial times.
The International Energy Agency said on Tuesday that carbon dioxide emissions from the world’s power stations rose to their highest level last year, as economies rebounded from the Covid-19 pandemic and coal use increased.
A study published in the journal Nature Climate Change on Monday said that much of the Amazon rainforest is reaching a climate tipping point, in which large areas will begin to transform into savannah.
The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change last month issued a “dire warning” that global warming was causing widespread damage to natural habitats, lives and livelihoods and some of its impacts may be irreversible.
The UAE, which holds a temporary UN Security Council seat, arranged the meeting as part of its council presidency for the month of March.
Members take turns holding the council’s presidency each month, during which they manage the agenda, preside over meetings and decide on topics for debate.
The UAE, Albania, Brazil, Gabon and Ghana joined the UN council for two-year terms beginning on January 1, meaning they can take part in meetings, vote on resolutions and help draft official statements.