On the initiative of small island states, Germany, Britain, the US and other members of the UN Security Council (UNSC) climate change was this week linked to conflict. Steiner and Ki-moon testified to the rationale:
“There can be little doubt today that climate change has potentially far-reaching implications for global stability and security in economic, social and environmental terms which will increasingly transcend the capacity of individual nation states to manage. […] Competition over scarce water and land, exacerbated by regional changes in climate, are already a key factor in local-level conflicts in Darfur, the Central African Republic, northern Kenya, and Chad, for example-when livelihoods are threatened by declining natural resources, people either innovate, flee or can be brought into conflict. […] In total, 145 countries share one or more international river basins. Changes in water flows, amplified by climate change, could be a major source of tension between states, especially those that lack the capacity for co-management and cooperation.”
– Achim Steiner, UNEP addressing the UNSC
“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 Ki-moon, UN
The key sections of the agreed upon statement:
The Security Council expresses its concern that possible adverse effects of climate change may, in the long run, aggravate certain existing threats to international peace and security.
The Security Council expresses its concern that possible security implications of loss of territory of some States caused by sea-level-rise may arise, in particular in small low-lying island states.
– United Nations Security Council statement July 20th, 2011.
Al Jazeera has produced a 25 minute program on the subject including a quite long discussion between three experts: Sabrina Chesterman, a climate change consultant based in South Africa; Tobias Seakin, a senior research fellow and the director of National Security and Resilience; and Cleo Paskal, an associate fellow with the Energy, Environment and Development Programme.
The statement faced opposition and required amendments to pass the vote. What should be obvious to anyone following these issues, Russia, India and China raised skeptic voices against. Notice the strong rhetoric:
“It [climate change] is a threat as great as nuclear proliferation or terrorism… neither have ever led to the disappearance of an entire nation, though that is what we are confronted with today… I often wonder where we would be if the roles were reversed. What if the pollution coming from our island nations was threatening the very existence of the major emitters?”
– Marcus Stephen, President of Nauru
“We have dozens of countries in this body and in this very room whose very existence is threatened. They’ve asked this council to demonstrate our understanding that their security is profoundly threatened. Instead, because of the refusal of a few to accept our responsibility, this council is saying, by its silence, in effect, ‘Tough luck.’ This is more than disappointing. It’s pathetic. It’s shortsighted, and frankly it’s a dereliction of duty.”
– Susan Rice, US Ambassador to the United Nations
Sources: tcktcktck.org / Full text of the UN Security Council Presidential Statement on climate change, Al Jazeera / Is climate change a global security threat?, Huffington Post / UN Council Connects Climate Change to Security, Barely, msnbc.com / UN official warns climate change could lead to conflicts over resources, Deutche Welle / UN says climate change threatens global security, FOX NEWS / Rice Lashes Out at Russia for Blocking U.N. Council From Tackling Climate Change.