Climate change is security threat, says UN

Conflict over water and other resources is likely to increasingly fuel wars as the climate warms, the UN Security Council warned this week as it debated climate-related security threats, despite disagreement from some developing countries.

British foreign secretary, formerly environment secretary, Margaret Beckett, called climate change a “security imperative” as she addressed the Security Council open debate in New York.

“What makes wars start? Fights over water; changing patterns of rainfall; fights over food production; land use,” she said.

“There are few greater potential threats to our economies, too, but also to peace and security itself.”

“This is a groundbreaking day in the history of the Security Council, the first time ever that we will debate climate change as a matter of international peace and security.”

Developing country representatives protested, saying climate change and energy do not fall under the remit of the Security Council and should be dealt with by the General Assembly or the Economic and Social Council instead.

Margaret Beckett acknowledged their reservations but said that, as with HIV and AIDS in the past, issues that were not directly security-related can still be debated by the Council if they bear strongly on security.

“This is an issue that threatens the peace and security of the whole planet, and the Security Council has to be the right place to debate it,” she said.

She also noted that not all developing countries question the security threat posed by climate change, citing Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni whose country is suffering from drought, and who has called climate change “an act of aggression by the rich against the poor.”

Ghanaian representative Leslie K. Christian also welcomed the Security Council debate. “It is our fervent hope that the repeated alarm about the grave threats posed by climate change, especially to regions that are already struggling with chronic instability, shall lead to action that is timely, concerted and sustainable, in order to alleviate the negative consequences of the phenomenon,” he said.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called for a “long-term global response” to climate change, including tackling scare resources. He warned that lack of access to water, energy and other resources can lead to conflict.

He said that the impacts of climate change are already noticeable and “beyond doubt that human activities have been contributing considerably to it.”

“Adverse effects are already felt in many areas, including agriculture and food security; oceans and coastal areas; biodiversity and ecosystems; water resources; human health; human settlements; energy, transport and industry; and extreme weather events,” he said.

Goska Romanowicz

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