Climate: security challenges


Summary

But several UN members questioned whether the 15-member body was the appropriate forum.

British Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett, whose country chairs the powerful council this month, opened the debate, stressing the need for shared understanding of the linkage between energy, climate and security.

It was the first time that global warming was debated in the council, which is tasked with preserving international peace and security.

"This is a groundbreaking day. For the first time we will debate climate change as a matter of international peace and security," Mr Beckett told reporters ahead of the debate.

She hailed the fact that a record 52 countries agreed to participate.

"An unstable climate will exacerbate some of the core drivers of conflict — such as migratory pressures and competition for resources," she warned in response to charges by some council members that the council was not the appropriate forum to deal with the issue.

"The recent Stern Report speaks of a potential economic disruption on the scale of the two World Wars and the Great Depression," she added. "That alone will inevitably have an impact on all of our security — developed and developing countries alike."

In a landmark report commissioned by the British government, economist and climate change guru Nicolas Stern warned last year that climate change could bring economic disaster on the scale of the world wars and the 1930s Great Depression unless urgent action was taken.

Mr Beckett cited the need "to begin to build a shared understanding of the relationship between energy, climate and security."

UN chief Ban Ki-moon also told the council that "issues of energy an climate change have implications for peace and security."

As examples, he said that scarce resources such as water and food could help turn peaceful competition into violence while migrations driven by climate change could deepen tensions and conflict.

"Limited or threatened access to energy is already known to be a powerful driver of conflict," he added, urging multilateral action to prevent such dire scenarios.

Speaking on behalf of the European Union, German Economic Cooperation Minister Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul agreed.

"Climate change will become an ever more important factor among root causes for conflict as the climate will continue to change at a faster rate," she said.

"The cost of inaction on climate change is far outweighed by the consequences of inaction," she added, urging the many UN institutions dealing with the issue to "work hand-in-hand in a cooperative manner".

"No institution can claim an exclusive competence for this cross-cutting issue," she said.

But there were also dissenting voices.

Speaking on behalf of Third World countries grouped in the Group of 77 and China, Pakistan's UN delegate Farukh Amil said it was "inappropriate" to consider the issue of energy in the council.

"The ever-increasing encroachment by the Security Council on the roles and responsibilities of other principal organs of the UN represents a distortion of the principles and purposes of the UN Charter," he said.

Mr Amil added that the appropriate forum to deal with the risks associated with global warming was the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

South Africa's UN Ambassador Dumisani Kumalo made a similar point, urging instead "appropriate UN bodies" to strengthen the capacity of the least developing countries, especially in Africa and Asia, to deal with disaster and humanitarian crises spawned by climate change.

He expressed hope that the debate "will not in any way elevate the issue of climate or environment to being an agenda item of the Security Council."


But several UN members questioned whether the 15-member body was the appropriate forum.

British Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett, whose country chairs the powerful council this month, opened the debate, stressing the need for shared understanding of the linkage between energy, climate and security.

It was the first time that global warming was debated in the council, which is tasked with preserving international peace and security.

"This is a groundbreaking day. For the first time we will debate climate change as a matter of international peace and security," Mr Beckett told reporters ahead of the debate.

She hailed the fact that a record 52 countries agreed to participate.

"An unstable climate will exacerbate some of the core drivers of conflict — such as migratory pressures and competition for resources," she warned in response to charges by some council members that the council was not the appropriate forum to deal with the issue.

"The recent Stern Report speaks of a potential economic disruption on the scale of the two World Wars and the Great Depression," she added. "That alone will inevitably have an impact on all of our security — developed and developing countries alike."

In a landmark report commissioned by the British government, economist and climate change guru Nicolas Stern warned last year that climate change could bring economic disaster on the scale of the world wars and the 1930s Great Depression unless urgent action was taken.

Mr Beckett cited the need "to begin to build a shared understanding of the relationship between energy, climate and security."

UN chief Ban Ki-moon also told the council that "issues of energy an climate change have implications for peace and security."

As examples, he said that scarce resources such as water and food could help turn peaceful competition into violence while migrations driven by climate change could deepen tensions and conflict.

"Limited or threatened access to energy is already known to be a powerful driver of conflict," he added, urging multilateral action to prevent such dire scenarios.

Speaking on behalf of the European Union, German Economic Cooperation Minister Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul agreed.

"Climate change will become an ever more important factor among root causes for conflict as the climate will continue to change at a faster rate," she said.

"The cost of inaction on climate change is far outweighed by the consequences of inaction," she added, urging the many UN institutions dealing with the issue to "work hand-in-hand in a cooperative manner".

"No institution can claim an exclusive competence for this cross-cutting issue," she said.

But there were also dissenting voices.

Speaking on behalf of Third World countries grouped in the Group of 77 and China, Pakistan's UN delegate Farukh Amil said it was "inappropriate" to consider the issue of energy in the council.

"The ever-increasing encroachment by the Security Council on the roles and responsibilities of other principal organs of the UN represents a distortion of the principles and purposes of the UN Charter," he said.

Mr Amil added that the appropriate forum to deal with the risks associated with global warming was the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

South Africa's UN Ambassador Dumisani Kumalo made a similar point, urging instead "appropriate UN bodies" to strengthen the capacity of the least developing countries, especially in Africa and Asia, to deal with disaster and humanitarian crises spawned by climate change.

He expressed hope that the debate "will not in any way elevate the issue of climate or environment to being an agenda item of the Security Council."