UN council turns around on climate change

UNITED NATIONS — The UN Security Council expressed concern Wednesday that climate change may aggravate threats to international peace and security after what diplomats described as intense negotiations between Germany and Russia, which initially opposed any council action.

By (AP)

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Published: Thu 21 Jul 2011, 9:35 AM

Last updated: Tue 7 Apr 2015, 7:58 AM

Germany, which holds the council presidency this month and initiated the daylong debate, pressed for the first-ever council statement linking climate change to global peace and security.

Diplomats said after Russia blocked consensus on Germany’s proposed statement Wednesday morning, Germany initiated high-level contacts with Moscow that produced agreement on a weaker version. The diplomats spoke on condition of anonymity because negotiations were private.

“This is a good day today for climate security,” German Ambassador Peter Wittig said, characterizing climate change as “one of the most important challenges to international peace and security of this century.”

“We had quite extensive discussions,” Wittig said. “We wanted to get everyone on board. And we did.”

The turnaround came after a day of speeches by representatives of more than 60 countries, including small islands such as the Pacific state of Nauru endangered by rising seas that scientists blame on climate change. U.S. Ambassador Susan E. Rice had called failed attempts to reach consensus in the morning “pathetic” and “shortsighted.”

“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,” read the statement approved in the late afternoon.

The statement also asked the Secretary-General to include the security implications of climate change in his reports.

“I would like to thank all members of the council for their cooperation and flexibility shown in those intensive negotiations over the last days,” Wittig said after reading the statement. “It led to an outcome of our debate, which is good news.”

During an open debate earlier in the day, Russia and several other council members argued that climate change shouldn’t be discussed in the UN body responsible for world peace, but rather by other UN bodies such as its General Assembly, Economic and Social Council, Environment Program, and Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Britain joined the U.S. in arguing that it was appropriate for the council to address the climate change’s security implications, saying that dramatically changing weather patterns are leading to flooding, drought, dwindling food stocks and other crises that threaten global security and peace.

The latest such crisis is the famine that the UN declared Wednesday in two regions of southern Somalia.

In the morning, Nauru President Marcus Stephen expressed disappointment the council was initially failing to reach consensus. “The Security Council must reflect current geopolitical realities if it is to remain relevant,” Stephen told council members.

Germany brought the issue before the body to shine a spotlight on the potentially devastating consequences caused by rising sea levels and temperatures and disruptions in weather patterns.

The council had failed to agree on whether climate change was an issue of world peace in 2007, when Britain brought up the issue.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said that as the effects of climate change grow, so do threats to global peace and security.

“Extreme weather events are becoming more frequent, more intense and affecting ever more people,” Ban said. “The consequences include massive loss of life, human suffering and economic loss.

“Megacrises are becoming the new normal,” said Ban.

Russian Ambassador Alexander Pankin, his country’s deputy permanent representative to the U.N., said in the morning that involving the Security Council in the debate could lead to “increased politicization” of the issue.

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