Young climate activists invited to address UN High Level Meeting on nuclear disarmament

The President of the UN General Assembly, Ambassador Abdulla Shahid, has invited two young climate activists to address a UN High Level Meeting on the Elimination of Nuclear Weapons which will be held on September 28. More than 80 governments will participate in the hybrid event, most of them represented by their President, Prime Minister, Foreign Minister or Defence Minister.

The event is being held in commemoration of the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons. The two civil society representatives invited to address the event are:

  • Marie-Claire Graf (Switzerland), Member of the World Future Council’s Youth Present initiative and the Global North Focal Point for YOUNGO – the official children and youth constituency of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change;
  • Nicole Ann Ponce (Philippines), Core Team Member of World’s Youth for Climate Justice.

See List of speakers for Sep 28 High Level Meeting. You can watch the event live on UNTV or view the recorded event later.

The High Level event comes just four days after the Pacific Island nation of Vanuatu announced their intention to take the World’s Youth for Climate Justice initiative to the UN General Assembly and the International Court of Justice.

Climate-nuclear nexus

This is the first time that climate activists have been invited to address the annual UN High Level Meeting on Nuclear Disarmament. The invitation demonstrates a realization from the President of the UNGA and the UN Office of Disarmament Affairs, that there are connections between the climate crisis and the threats from nuclear weapons.

Both climate change and nuclear weapons threaten life on a planetary scale. Both have transboundary and transgenerational impact. Both require international cooperation to resolve. And new thinking and action led by youth is vital to success in both the climate and nuclear disarmament movements.

In addition, the use of nuclear weapons in armed conflict could cause catastrophic climatic consequences, and climate change is a conflict escalator that increases the risks of a nuclear conflict.

And the global nuclear weapons budget – nearly $100 billion per year – is desperately needed to help finance carbon emission reductions and the phase out of fossil fuels.

The Climate-Nuclear nexus is incorporated into civil society initiatives such as the Move the Nuclear Weapons Money Campaign and Protect People and the Planet: Appeal for a Nuclear Weapon Free world, which are endorsed by the civil society speakers Marie-Claire Graf and Nicole Ann Ponce, and by the recent event Nuclear Weapons and Climate Change at which Marie-Claire and Nicole were speakers.

Taking climate change to the International Court of Justice

Nicole’s presentation to the UN General Assembly meeting on September 28 will come just 4 days after the island nation of Vanuatu announced that they are launching a process in the UN General Assembly to seek an Advisory Opinion from the International Court of Justice on the legal responsibility to stabilise the climate in order to protect current and future generations.

Vanuatu responded to a campaign to seek such an ICJ opinion which has been initiated and by Pacific Island Students Fighting Climate Change and World’s Youth for Climate Justice, and in which Nicole is one of the youth leaders.

The initiative is inspired by the 1996 ICJ Advisory Opinion on the Legality of the Threat or Use of Nuclear weapons, in which Vanuatu also played a leading role, and which highlighted the responsibility to protect future generations, affirmed that the destructive impact of nuclear weapons cannot be contained in time or space, declared the threat or use of nuclear weapons to be generally illegal and confirmed an unconditional obligation to achieve the complete elimination of nuclear weapons.

For more on this, see Human rights in the face of the climate crisis: a youth-led initiative to bring climate justice to the International Court of Justice, and tune in to Nicole’s presentation on September 28 at UNTV.

UN Photo by Manuel Elias