Ensure climate justice, check rising seas: UN chief tells nations

Antonio Guterres
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. File photo: Reuters/Andrew Kelly

United Nations: Addressing a Security Council debate UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said that climate crisis is the root cause of rising seas, and urged the international community to take more concerted action to reduce emissions and ensure climate justice.

"Sea-level rise is not only a threat in itself. It is a threat-multiplier," Guterres told a Security Council debate on "Sea-level Rise: Implications for International Peace and Security", Xinhua news agency reported.

Rising seas threaten lives, and jeopardize access to water, food and healthcare. Saltwater intrusion can decimate jobs and entire economies in key industries like agriculture, fishery and tourism, he said.

It can damage or destroy vital infrastructure, and rising seas threaten the very existence of some low-lying communities and even countries, he added.

Citing data released by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), Guterres said that global average sea levels have risen faster since 1900 than over any preceding century in the last 3,000 years.

The WMO predicted that even if global heating is limited to 1.5 degrees Celsius, there will still be a sizeable sea level rise, and if temperatures rise by 2 degrees Celsius, that level rise could double, with further temperature increases bringing exponential sea level increases.

The consequences of the scenarios "are unthinkable," Guterres said, warning that the world would witness "a mass exodus of entire populations on a biblical scale" and "ever-fiercer competition for fresh water, land and other resources."

The international community must meet this rising tide of insecurity with action to address climate crisis, the root cause of rising seas, with more concerted action to reduce emissions and ensure climate justice, he said.

Developing countries must have the resources to adapt and build resilience against climate disaster, the UN chief said, which means delivering on the loss and damage fund, making good on the $100-billion climate finance commitment to developing countries, doubling adaptation finance, and leveraging massive private financing at a reasonable cost.

He also stressed the need to broaden understanding of the root causes of insecurity by identifying and addressing a much wider range of factors that undermine security, from poverty, discrimination and inequality, violations of human rights, to environmental disasters like rising sea levels.

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