At UN, Rouhani says Iran nuke deal good for environment
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At UN, Rouhani says Iran nuke deal good for environment

Iranian leader advocates for a different ‘green revolution,’ expresses concern that terrorism and environmental decline are linked

Rebecca Shimoni Stoil is the Times of Israel's Washington correspondent.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon meets with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani at the United Nations in New York on September 26, 2015. (AFP/DOMINICK REUTER)
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon meets with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani at the United Nations in New York on September 26, 2015. (AFP/DOMINICK REUTER)

NEW YORK — Iranian President Hassan Rouhani presented Iran’s green side – not just Islam, but environmental as well – to the United Nations on Saturday, stressing Tehran’s commitment to sustainability during the United Nations Summit for the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

“Environmental problems have taught us humans living on planet earth that we are all in the same boat,” Rouhani stressed in prepared remarks before the summit.

Rouhani, who is expected to discuss the recent nuclear agreement between the P5+1 and Iran during his speech next Monday at the UN General Assembly’s annual general debate, argued Saturday that the deal itself was beneficial to the environment.

“The process of the past two years and the ensuing nuclear deal between Iran and the P5+l has created suitable conditions for regional and international cooperation, including in the field of environmental preservation,” he asserted.

Rouhani’s Monday speech – which will come hours after US President Barack Obama’s – is likely to hold up the recent negotiations as evidence of Iran’s willingness to engage in multilateralism and international cooperation. The same theme was previewed in Saturday’s remarks, albeit with a specifically environmental spin.

“We are eager to cooperate with our neighbors to promote regional sustainable development through active environmental diplomacy, constructive relations with other countries, transfer of technology and know-how, and participation in joint scientific activities, in order to fulfill our share in building a more sustainable world immune from environmental threats,” he offered.

Rouhani warned that his region, which he described as “West Asia,” is facing interrelated challenges of environmental impacts and political instability. The region, he said, “is not only facing hotter climate conditions and challenges of continued extensive drought but, it is also grappling with the scourge of terrorism and extremist violence.”

“In other words, violence against man and nature are the dual calamities befallen the West Asia region,” he continued.

“Terrorists tend to grow and thrive in lands that are deprived and damaged by environmental disasters and easily pour across borders like haze. Terrorist groups crush the sustainable development goals. And the continuation of this situation results in further poverty and environmental destruction. Not only have terrorism and violence damaged the environment, but also they have taken sustainable development out of the agenda of countries, forcing them to expend their national resources on fighting against insecurity,” he said

Rouhani stressed his own country’s commitment to the realization of the millennium development goals laid out by the United Nations.

“As an environmentally friendly government, we have set our policies based on a balanced approach between economic development and environmental protection,” he asserted. “Increasing environmental awareness across the board, introducing environmental education in school curriculums, revamping dam-building policies, reviving endangered wetlands and exerting round the clock efforts to preserve endangered lakes are all examples of only a small part of our commitment towards the sustainable development goals.”

The original millennium development goals were outlined in 2000 at the Millennium Summit, where world leaders adopted the UN Millenium Declaration. According to the UN, the original goals had a deadline of 2015, and included “time-bound and quantified targets for addressing extreme poverty in its many dimensions-income poverty, hunger, disease, lack of adequate shelter, and exclusion-while promoting gender equality, education, and environmental sustainability.”

The summit held Saturday is part of an effort to pursue an additional, similar set of goals for the next 15 years.

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