Statement by Mr. Paul Teesalu, Deputy Foreign Minister of Estonia at the UN Security Council Open Debate on Addressing the impacts of climate-related disasters on international peace and security, New York, 25 January 2019

Mr President,

Allow me to express my sincere gratitude to the Dominican Republic as this month’s President of the Security Council for convening an open debate on such a highly relevant topic. Estonia aligns itself with the statement (to be) delivered by the European Union.

Climate change has severe security implications. We are clearly seeing the existential threat that climate change poses to the very survival of many small island developing states. Knowledge surrounding the threat of climate change to SIDS and other low-lying coastal areas dates as far back as 1990, but we have yet to take concrete steps to change the course on these developments. The accumulation of the effects of climate related disasters will inevitably have a direct impact on people’s livelihoods, which will be especially devastating in already fragile areas.
If the slow onset sea level rise seems as something in the distant future, then in fact the devastating impacts of climate change are already felt today. For instance, in the Lake Chad basin the effects of climate change are multipliers for poverty, instability, hunger and violence.

Mr. President,

The recent scientific data show that the effects of climate change are taking place much faster than previously thought. The world’s leading climate scientists have warned that there is only a dozen years for global warming to be kept to a maximum of 1.5C. In order to effectively respond to security threats induced by climate change, we need to strengthen climate resilience, disaster preparedness and response. That can only be achieved through coordinated action both on a domestic as well as on international level. My country, Estonia, has traditionally not been at the forefront of climate disasters, but shifting climate patterns have lately had a considerable effect on our agriculture and forestry sectors. As a response to that, we are developing expertise on combatting forest fires and supporting similar projects in the region. Even though such cooperation projects might only give a small-scale example, they still illustrate very well how the experience we are gaining by increasing our resilience to climate change impacts can benefit our partners in enhancing their own resilience.

Climate change and its effects are without a doubt extremely complex, which in turn means that we need to strive for a holistic approach and comprehensive strategic planning, to ensure our preparedness for such effects. It is essential to make continuous efforts to integrate climate change across sectors in national and regional planning. To ensure ownership and full implementation of such plans, all interest groups of the society need to be included in the process, including and especially women and youth.

Furthermore, climate change’s linkages with poverty, food, water and energy security, migration and conflict need to be made more explicit in order to influence national policy agendas. In this regard, the Security Council can and should take a more systematic approach in considering the climate change factor as a cause and a multiplier in conflict situations. Estonia fully supports the Secretary General’s focus on prevention and in this regard, taking into account and including the negative effects of climate change into the Security Council mandated missions can make a difference in the outcome of conflict resolution.

Finally, being in the forefront of innovation and digitalization of the society, we in Estonia believe that climate resilience is an area where the tools of modern technologies can be used, as proven by early warning systems. Our long-term strategy foresees promoting the development of innovative technologies, products and services that reduce emissions. We aim to invest more in innovative solutions that support a low carbon, more energy efficient and climate resilient world. Our cooperation efforts focus especially on the situation in the most endangered countries that are the least developed countries and the small island developing states. We are proud to be contributors and collaborators in the projects that enhance the responsiveness and adaptation to the climate change in the Pacific small island developing states.

Mr. President,

In conclusion, allow me to assure you that Estonia is fully committed to the fight against global climate change. This will also be one of Estonia’s priorities should we be elected to the Security Council for the period of 2020-2021. We firmly believe that it is our responsibility to take effective action to combat climate change, including its direct implications to peace and security.

I thank you, Mr. President!