Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield
U.S. Representative to the United Nations
New York, New York
April 22, 2021
Thank you so much, Director Haines. And Secretary Austin, thank you for your leadership, thank you for your critical insights, and for teeing up this historic discussion. And a warm welcome to all of our distinguished guests here today. Thank you for making the time to discuss a challenge we all share. We’re looking forward to a productive discussion this afternoon.
Here in America, this past year, we experienced extreme wildfires in California, unprecedented storms and blackouts in Texas, and devastating hurricanes in my own home state of Louisiana. And of course, we were far from alone. The world saw monsoons, and droughts, and rising sea levels, toxic air pollution. My point is, it doesn’t matter where you live, climate change is a challenge for every person, in every nation, and on every continent. And one reason we bring it up so often at the United Nations, and in the Security Council in particular, is because the threat isn’t just to all of our climates, but to our collective security.
As Secretary Austin alluded to, the Pentagon has designated climate change as 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 regions. Scarcity spurs desperation. And desperation leads to violence.
What’s more, at its current pace, the climate crisis is set to drive millions from their homes, propelling mass migration that will undermine peace and stability around the world. Worst of all, so many of the world’s most fragile states and regions are the very same ones that are most vulnerable to climate calamities. The good news is we can build resilience, we can stave off security threats, and even generate economic opportunity, if we work together and deploy every possible resource toward this effort.
So, President Biden is taking advantage of all of the tools in the multilateral toolkit. You can see that represented here today. We’re putting climate change at the center of our foreign policy. We have a military strategy, we have an intelligence strategy, and a diplomatic strategy. From a diplomatic standpoint, President Biden moved to rejoin the Paris Agreement just hours after being sworn into office. And earlier this month, the United States joined the UN’s Group of Friends on Climate and Security, which aims to integrate the climate-security nexus throughout our work at the United Nations.
Today represents the next step – the next major step – in our diplomatic efforts. Our hope for this panel – our charge, in fact – is to coordinate on how we can prevent conflict caused by climate crisis and turn this security threat into a shared economic opportunity.
To that end, let’s get the conversation started.