Global Policy Forum

UN to Discuss Climate as Security Issue

Associated Press
April 5, 2007

The U.N. Security Council will discuss potential threats to international security from climate change for the first time later this month. Britain's U.N. Ambassador Emyr Jones Parry, the current council president, said Wednesday the meeting will highlight "what a sensitive, difficult issue" climate change is and the importance of addressing its potential security ramifications -- from rising temperatures increasing water levels and swallowing up island nations to possible famine.

"This is a very complex issue and one of the big challenges for the world for the next century, literally," he said. British Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett will chair the April 17 meeting and has invited the 14 other council nations to be represented at ministerial level if they wish, Jones Parry said.

"The traditional triggers for conflict which exist out there are likely to be exacerbated by the effect of climate change," he said. The council will look at the impact of climate change on water, agricultural production, the potential for famine and crop surpluses, he said. "I don't want to state these are factors that determine conflict, no," Jones Parry said. "But they will, at the margin, and sometimes more than the margin, have a contributing effect, too, so that's part of our argument." In the Maldives, for instance, a 1.5-degree or 2-degree Centigrade change in temperature will increase the ocean level by 10 feet, or three meters, which would put the country under water, he said.

"If you therefore know your state will not exist, to talk to them about security is something they wouldn't doubt," Jones Parry said. Britain also wants to hold the meeting to have the Security Council "accept that there is a dimension of this which is a potential threat," he said. In other countries such as Bangladesh, large numbers of people will have to move, he said.

"They're all factors that can give rise to potential instability," Jones Parry said, "and what we want to see is that they, too, take their place along with energy, environment, economic issues, the scientific aspect" of climate change. He said the meeting will not produce a council statement or resolution. "But the fact of holding it and highlighting these issues, we think is important," Jones Parry said. Last month, an international panel of scientists presented the United Nations with a sweeping, detailed plan to combat climate change, warning that failure would produce a turbulent 21st century of weather extremes, spreading drought and disease, expanding oceans and displacing coastal populations.

That report was issued just three weeks after the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, an authoritative U.N. network of 2,000 scientists, reported that global warming is being caused largely by the accumulation of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere, mostly from man's burning of coal, oil and other fossil fuels. If nothing is done, it said, global temperatures could rise as much as 6 degrees Celsius (11 degrees Fahrenheit) by 2100.

Jones Parry said he expects negotiations next year on how the world should address global warming, "and my guess is that sometime next year, there will be a summit devoted to climate change." He said it was "quite likely" the summit would take place in September 2008 at the time of the U.N. General Assembly's ministerial meeting, when it could "add value" to the negotiations on climate change. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has not said if he will move forward with a summit, but he has said he would discuss how best to confront the climate change problem with world leaders at a meeting of the Group of Eight industrialized countries in June.

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