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UPDATE 1-David Attenborough to U.N.: 'Climate change a threat to global security, I don't envy you'

Michelle Nichols
·3 min read

(Adds comments by envoys from U.S., China and Russia)

By Michelle Nichols

NEW YORK, Feb 23 (Reuters) - British naturalist DavidAttenborough warned on Tuesday that climate change is thebiggest security threat that modern humans have ever faced,telling the U.N. Security Council: "I don't envy you theresponsibility that this places on all of you."

Attenborough, 94, the world's most influential wildlifebroadcaster, addressed a virtual meeting of the 15-membercouncil on climate-related risks to international peace andsecurity, chaired by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

"If we continue on our current path, we will face thecollapse of everything that gives us our security: foodproduction, access to fresh water, habitable ambient temperatureand ocean food chains," Attenborough said.

"And if the natural world can no longer support the mostbasic of our needs, then much of the rest of civilization willquickly break down," he added.

With the world struggling to cut planet-warming emissionsfast enough to avoid catastrophic warming, the United Nationswill stage a climate summit in November in Glasgow, Scotland.

"It is literally our last, best hope to get on track and toget this right," U.S. climate envoy John Kerry told the council.

The November summit serves as a deadline for countries tocommit to deeper emissions cuts. It will be the most importantgathering since the 2015 event that yielded the Paris Agreement,when nearly 200 countries committed to halt rising temperaturesquickly enough to avoid catastrophic change.

"I know that there are people around the world who will saythat this is all kind of green stuff from a bunch oftree-hugging, tofu munchers and not suited to internationaldiplomacy and international politics," Johnson told the council."I couldn't disagree more profoundly."

'LONG WAY TO GO'

Russia and China question whether the Security Council isthe right forum to be discussing climate change.

"We agree that climate change and environmental issues canexacerbate conflict. But are they really the root cause of theseconflicts? There are serious doubts about this," Russia's U.N.Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia said.

China's climate envoy Xie Zhenhua described climate changeas a development issue. "Sustainable development holds themaster key to solving all problems and eliminating the rootcauses of conflicts," he said.

Kerry said: "We bury our heads in the sand at our own peril.It is time to start treating the climate crisis like the urgentsecurity threat that it is. This is literally the challenge ofall of our generations."

The Paris accord aims to cap the rise in temperatures to"well below" 2 degrees Celsius and as close as possible to 1.5Cto avoid the most devastating impacts of climate change.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres pushed countries,companies, cities and financial institutions to make ambitiouscommitments to cut global emissions. China and the United Statesare the world's biggest emitters of greenhouse gases.

"We still have a long way to go, and we look to the majoremitters to lead by example in the coming months," Guterres toldthe council. "This is a credibility test of their commitment topeople and planet. It is the only way we will keep the1.5-degree goal within reach."(Reporting by Michelle Nichols; editing by Jonathan Oatis)