United Nations Stalemates on Climate Change and Security

Climate change became a hot-button issue at a recent U.N. Security Council meeting.

On Wednesday, Western countries clashed with Russia and developing nations over whether climate change is a matter of national and international security that merits the attention of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), Reuters reported.

Although it initially blocked the adoption of a statement on the issue, Russia later agreed to a revised text that referred to the “possible security implications” of global warming.

The heated discussion — the first formal Security Council debate on the topic in four years — came as Ban Ki-moon, the secretary general for the United Nations, said that climate change is a real threat to international peace and security, urging developed countries to lead the global effort against it and emerging economies to take their fair share of the responsibility, according to a U.N. news release.

“Extreme weather events continue to grow more frequent and intense in rich and poor countries alike, not only devastating lives, but also infrastructure, institutions, and budgets – an unholy brew which can create dangerous security vacuums,” Ban said.

In the debate called by Germany, which holds the rotating presidency of the Security Council this month, Western speakers said that climate-induced aridity had contributed to conflicts in Sudan’s troubled Darfur region and in Somalia, where a famine has just been declared by the U.N. The region is currently battling its worst drought in 60 years.

But Russia said Moscow was “skeptical” about attempts to put climate change on the Council’s agenda and expressed concerns that this will “lead to further increased politicization of this issue and increased disagreements between countries.”

Temporary Council members India and Brazil said they also doubted whether the body should address the issue. Meanwhile, a number of developing countries saw the discussion as an attempt by big economies to meddle with the authority of the U.N. General Assembly and other U.N. agencies that are specifically focused on climate change and the environment.

Earlier, Achim Steiner, the under secretary general for the U.N. and executive director of the U.N. Environment Programme (UNEP), said that climate change was advancing faster than were efforts to contain it; efforts which are plagued by slow-moving U.N. negotiations and other measures.

“What the ever-evolving scenarios and scientific findings suggest are continuing, accelerating, and even ‘tipping point’ trends linked to environmental change, including climate change,” he said. “This is happening in a world of close to 7 billion people, rising to over 9 billion by 2050, and on a planet where resource constraints are rapidly emerging.”

In a presidential statement, the Council said that “possible adverse effects of climate change may, in the long run, aggravate certain existing threats to international peace and security.”

The U.N. Secretary General also added that the world must move from conceptual discussions to concrete measures. For instance, in December, at the next Conference of Parties (COP 17) to the United nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Durban, South Africa, global leaders must make a decisive move towards achieving these goals.

Sources: Reuters, United Nations

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