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The challenges
for small islands

· Intervention by Archbishop Bernardito Auza, Apostolic Nuncio and Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the UN United Nations Security Council Open Debate ·

New York, 30 July 2015

Mr. President,

My delegation commends you for convening this first-ever Security Council open debate on “Peace and Security Challenges facing Small Island Developing States.”

Among the threats that Small Island Developing Countries (SIDS) face are those related to climate change. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, some of the most significant threats to small islands include sea-level rise, tropical and extra-tropical cyclones, increasing air and sea surface temperatures, and changing rainfall patterns. (https://www.ipcc.ch/pdf/assessment-report/ar5/wg2/drafts/fd/WGIIAR5-Chap29_FGDall.pdf )

For SIDS, this is more than just an environmental issue or even a development issue: it is an existential threat. Their populations cannot afford further sea level increases. Climate-related threats exacerbate the negative impacts of their remoteness, small and low-lying lands, and meagre resources.

Thus, if we are to provide greater security for SIDS, the most urgent issue we must address is to tackle climate change, both the impacts that SIDS are currently facing as well as reducing future threats. This will need a new approach to development, shifting from polluting fossil fuels to sustainable energy and maximising energy efficiency. Developing countries have the opportunity to “leapfrog” a dependence on fossil fuels to more sustainable development, which prioritises both people and planet. But they need global support to be able to do this.

In such a crucial year for UN Summits, we have a moral obligation to make progress on these issues together. International, national and local policymakers, political and economic leaders, scientific and religious institutions must all contribute. Different perspectives are ever more intertwined and complementary than ever and must integrate the riches of faith and of spiritual traditions, the seriousness of scientific research, the public responsibility of political leadership and the valuable work of civil society into concrete efforts at all levels.

My delegation sees concern for climate change as inseparable from concern for human development. Environmental care and poverty alleviation are not separate challenges, but parts of one and the same challenge of providing an integral and authentic human development. Pope Francis proposes this “integral ecology” as a paradigm able to articulate harmoniously our fundamental multidimensional relationships, affirming that “we are not faced with two separate crises, one environmental and the other social, but rather one complex crisis that is both social and environmental.” Thus, “strategies for a solution demand an integral approach to combating poverty, restoring dignity to the underprivileged, and at the same time protecting nature” (Laudato Si’ n. 139).

If we lose sight of our oneness with the environment, our attitude to it “will be that of masters, consumers, ruthless exploiters, unable to set limits on [our] immediate needs. By contrast, if we feel intimately united with all that exists, then sobriety and care will well up spontaneously” (Laudato Si’ n. 11).

Thus, our care for the earth should be much more than a “green” attitude; it must also be a social one, because we human beings are a part of nature, included in it and in constant interaction with it. As Pope Francis told the Mayors of the world’s major cities gathered in the Vatican last July 21st, “care for the environment is a social attitude.”

While all of us must contribute to find an integrated solution, Pope Francis particularly challenges richer countries that “have experienced great growth at the cost of the ongoing pollution of the planet” to take responsibility for this ecological debt by helping poorer countries to shift to sustainable development pathways.

My delegation wishes to mention briefly three areas where we can make a difference in the next few months:

First, by achieving a deal in Paris to combat climate change. Pope Francis continues to challenge global political leaders to be courageous and move beyond the mind-set of short-term gain that dominates present-day economics and politics. In Paris, we need a deal that will “leave behind a testimony of selfless responsibility.” (LS n.181).

Second, by allocating sufficient financial resources to tackle climate change and to respond to current needs. Climate finance is a key part of paying the ecological debt and is vital for building trust towards a successful climate deal in Paris. There must be sufficient and predictable finance to poorer and most affected countries, like the SIDS, so they can plan long-term for more sustainable development.

Third, by increasing access to renewable energy as an enabler of sustainable development. Billions of people need access to energy to lift them out of poverty. Billions, particularly women and girls, suffer the terrible health impacts of cooking with polluting fuels. Most live in areas not connected to the grid and can most easily be reached by off-grid, mostly renewable energy. Richer countries must help poorer countries develop less polluting forms of energy production by giving them greater access to technology and financial resources.

Mr. President,

While climate change and underdevelopment are primarily socio-economic issues, they can severely impact peace and security of local communities, of regions and entire nations, and, indeed, of the international community. My delegation will continue to engage on these discussions in the context of the General Assembly and other relevant fora.

Thank you, Mr. President. 

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