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Remarks by Ambassador Zhang Jun at the UN Security Council Open Debate on Sea-level Rise: Implications for International Peace and Security

2023-02-14 13:00

Mr. President,

China welcomes Malta’s initiative as the Council President to convene today’s meeting. I also thank Foreign Minister Ian Borg for presiding over the meeting. I thank Secretary-General Guterres, UNGA President Kőrösi and Co-Chair Aurescu for their briefings. And I have listened attentively to the statement by Ms. Pasisi.

Sea-level rise has heightened the vulnerability of the ecosystem and human society globally. It may give rise to submersion of territories, human migration, property loss, and other issues, and poses all-round challenges to human survival and development. For small island developing states and low-lying coastal countries, it is even an existential matter. China, as a country with a long coastline, also pays great attention to the risks from sea-level rise. In addition, the rising sea level has brought about new questions on inter alia the Law of the Sea, statehood, and human protection, and as such has intricate links with security, which all merit in-depth and comprehensive study. China expects that the dedicated study on sea-level rise in relation to international law being examined by the International Law Commission will produce practical, objective, and valuable outcomes.

Mr. President,

Sea-level rise is caused by a multitude of factors such as global warming and polar glacier melting, and is a key indicator for climate change. The international community should step up forward-looking studies on the consequences of the rising sea level, and in the meantime, focus on climate change as its root cause, rigorously slow down global warming, and contain the trend of rapid sea-level rise. Secretary-General Guterres has repeatedly warned us that the planet is fast approaching climate change critical point. The international community should adopt a greater sense of urgency without delay, seize the opportunity to take all necessary actions, and prevent climate change from causing irreversible catastrophes to humanity.

As climate change mitigation concerns the future of the entire humanity, the international community should be fully determined and relentless in its efforts. To achieve the temperature cap set out in the Paris Agreement, developed Countries must take the lead in further reducing emissions. However, since last year, there has been a backtrack in the energy policy of some developed countries and an increase rather than decrease in their fossil fuel consumption and carbon emissions, which makes the already elusive global emissions reduction prospect even more precarious. Most developed countries set forth their carbon peaking and carbon neutrality targets and programs relatively early. And they should set an example by taking concrete actions for their implementation.

Financing always lies at the heart of and is a key issue for global climate governance. Developed Countries are obliged and responsible for providing climate change financing and assistance to developing countries. As early as 2009, developed countries pledged 100 billion US dollars annually to developing countries, which has yet to be truly delivered up to date, making their so-called commitment nothing but an empty promise. Worse still, some country, while passively responding to the funding needs of developing countries, invests hundreds of billions of dollars in hefty subsidies to its domestic manufacturing industry through the so-called Inflation Reduction Act, purportedly to promote its energy transition. Such hypocritical and self-serving, green protectionism violates WTO rules, discriminates against relevant industries in other countries, and undermines the collective efforts to tackle climate change globally.

Adhering to true multilateralism and strengthening solidarity and cooperation are the only way out in addressing the climate change challenge. We should stick to the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities, which bears on international equity and justice. Deviation from this principle will severely damage the unity and cooperation of the international community to tackle climate change. The UNFCCC and its Paris Agreement constitute the main framework for international cooperation on climate change, the hard-won achievements of which are to be jointly cherished and maintained by all.The Security Council may, under country-specific items and in line with specific circumstances, examine and take targeted responses based on an accurate grasp on the mechanism of climate-driven security risks.

Efforts to address climate change and sea-level rise should always aim to implement the 2030 Agenda and to create conducive conditions for achieving the SDGs. Small island developing states are most exposed to climate shocks, but the least adaptable at the same time. The international community should effectively address the concerns and needs of SIDS, help them with capacity building through financial and technical assistance, build up their climate resilience, and achieve green and low-carbon development. The ocean is the bedrock for survival and development on which all countries in the world depend, making the marine environment conservation a common responsibility of humankind. A pressing challenge, as we speak, is the discharge of 400,000 tonnes of nuclear contaminated water from the Fukushima nuclear power plant, which will seriously damage the marine environment and people’s health, with SIDS and their people bearing the brunt. China urges Japan to fulfill its international obligations, dispose of the nuclear contaminated water in a science-based, open, transparent, and safe manner, and effectively protect the marine environment and ecosystem.

Mr. President,

In the face of climate change, China has always been steadfastly action-oriented with no efforts spared once a commitment is made. We have made steady yet robust progress towards carbon peaking and carbon neutrality, unswervingly pursued a green and low-carbon development pathway that puts ecological conservation at the forefront, and made a series of achievements in energy conservation, renewable energy, new energy vehicles, and forest carbon sequestration, among others, hereby making tangible contributions to global climate governance. China always advocates and engages in South-South cooperation on climate change. Up to date, we have signed 45 climate change cooperation instruments with 38 developing countries, built three low-carbon demonstration zones, carried out 42 climate change mitigation and adaptation projects, and trained technical personnel in relevant fields from over 120 developing countries in total. All these have been well received and highly acclaimed by many developing countries, including SIDS. China will continue to work with all parties to actively participate in global climate governance and tackle the climate change challenge.

COP28 of the UNFCCC will be held this December in the UAE. China appreciates the UAE’s contribution to advancing the global process of tackling climate change, and supports the UAE in hosting a successful COP. It is our hope that all parties will focus on the purposes and objectives of the Convention, and jointly build a fair, reasonable, cooperative, and win-win global climate governance architecture.

【After the statement by Japan, Ambassador Zhang Jun made the following statement:】

The topic of our discussion today is the implications of sea-level rise. One can imagine if what is rising is heavily nuclear contaminated sea, then the implications will only be more dramatic and the negative effect would only be more far-reaching. That is the main reason why China has raised this concern. Japan has confirmed that it will release at least 400,000 tons of nuclear contaminated water into the Pacific in the first quarter of this year. The contaminated water from Fukushima contains more than 60 types of radioactive substances, and the discharge is estimated to last for as long as 30 years. Japan’s discharge of nuclear contaminated water into the sea will severely endanger the global marine environment, ecosystems, and the lives and health of people of all countries. Therefore, this is by no means a private matter for Japan. Japan’s neighboring countries, Pacific island countries, and other stakeholders have all expressed serious concerns over Japan’s wrong decision. And there are also strong voices of opposition within Japan.

Regrettably, to date, Japan has not yet provided science-based and credible explanations on key issues such as the legitimacy of its discharge program, the reliability of its data on nuclear contaminated water, the effectiveness of the treatment systems, and the uncertainties in the environmental impact. Nor has it conducted full and meaningful consultations with stakeholders, including neighboring countries. The relevant international organization has not yet completed the assessment of Japan’s disposal program, let alone reached concrete conclusions. Under such circumstances, Japan has been bent on forcibly approving the discharge program of the nuclear contaminated water and has been accelerating the preparations for the discharge. Such behavior is extremely irresponsible. Japan has indicated that the nuclear contaminated water after treatment is completely harmless, which leaves me in great doubt. If that is really the case, then there could be other ways of discharge, including discharging the water into its own rivers or lakes. China urges Japan to take seriously the legitimate concerns of all parties, and not to take the liberty of initiating the discharge of nuclear contaminated water without prior consultation and agreement with neighboring countries, other stakeholders, and the relevant international organizations. We also call on the international community to follow closely this important issue.

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