Rising sea levels threaten lives, communities and entire countries, points out António Guterres, warning of “unthinkable” consequences if the world does not act immediately: mass exodus, conflicts over access to fresh water, land and other resources, in addition to of a number of legal issues that had never been contemplated.
UN News, 14 February 2023.- “Rising sea levels threaten lives and jeopardize access to water, food and health services. (…) And sea level rise threatens the very existence of some communities and even of some Dutch countries”, recalled the Secretary General of the United Nations. security advice.
In a ministerial debate at the UN’s highest decision-making body on the implications of rising sea levels for international peace and security, António Guterres warned that even if the world succeeds in limiting global temperature rise to 1.5°C by the end of the century, the sea level would rise considerably.
But if the temperature increased by 2ºC, the water rise would double, he added.
Guterres indicated that, in any case, many countries and metropolises are at risk.
“The danger is especially acute for the nearly 900 million people who live in low-lying coastal areas, that is, one in every ten inhabitants of the planet.“, he said.
Among the effects that these populations are already suffering, he cited the example of the Caribbean, where rising sea levels have contributed to the devastation of local livelihoods in the tourism and agriculture sectors.
The consequences of rising sea levels will be unthinkable
However, over time the consequences will be “unthinkable”: “Low-altitude communities and entire countries could disappear forever. We would see a mass exodus of entire populations on a biblical scale. And we would see increasingly fierce competition for fresh water, land and other resources.”, he predicted, adding that the impact of rising sea levels is already giving rise to new factors of instability and conflict.
To deal with this situation, the General secretary He called for action in three areas.
The first is to address the source of rising seas: the climate crisis.
“We urgently need more concerted action to reduce carbon emissions and ensure climate justice.”, he emphasized, detailing that this means, among other things, fulfilling the commitment to allocate 100,000 million dollars for developing countries to make the transition to renewable energies, doubling financing for adaptation and granting massive private financing at reasonable costs.
The second area of action is to implement strategies that end poverty, discrimination, inequality and human rights violations, as all of these cause insecurity.
Likewise, forecasting and early warning systems must be improved to prepare and protect vulnerable communities.
new legal issues
Thirdly, explained Guterres, it is necessary to address the consequences of rising sea levels in the legal framework and human rights because it will generate possible disputes related to territorial integrity and maritime spaces, in addition to causing large population displacements that will have to be viewed through the lens of refugee rights.
Likewise, legal solutions and innovative practices must be implemented to face the impacts of rising sea levels on the forced displacement of populations and on the very existence of the land territory of some States.
“People’s human rights don’t disappear when their homes disappear”, he emphasized.
In this regard, he stated that the UN Security Council has a fundamental role in mobilizing the necessary political will to face the devastating security challenges posed by rising waters.
“We must all continue to give this issue the visibility it deserves and support the lives, livelihoods and communities living on the front lines of this crisis.”, concluded the Secretary General.
What happens to sovereignty if a country goes under?
the president of general meetingCsaba Kőrösi, also a participant in the debate, echoed the UN leader’s words that climate-induced sea level rise is causing new legal issues that are at the heart of national and state identity.
“What happens to a nation’s sovereignty, including UN membership, if it sinks into the sea? Including your voting rights. There are rules about the creation of states, but none about their physical demise. Who cares about their displaced populations? How would early coastal changes influence maritime boundaries? And how would this affect the exclusive economic zones?“, asked.
Like António Guterres, Kőrösi welcomed the fact that the International Law Commission and the Sixth Committee of the General Assembly were already discussing these urgent issues.
On the other hand, the President of the Assembly maintained that climate emergencies open new windows of cooperation and inclusion and called for the strengthening of alliances to achieve the transformation towards a safer world.