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Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

UN Headquarters

20 July 2011


Remarks to the Security Council on the Impact of Climate Change on International Peace and Security

Your Excellency Mr. Marcus Stephen, President of the Republic of Nauru,
Mr. President of the Security Council,
Excellencies,

I thank the German Presidency of this Council [for having] organized this very important meeting at this juncture.

When the Security Council first took up the issue of climate change in 2007, the debate was preceded by a vigorous exchange about whether such consideration was appropriate.

I argued then, and do so again today, that it is not only appropriate – it is essential.

I welcome the fact that we have moved forward and are having the right debate today – about what this Council and all UN Member States can do to confront the double-barrelled challenge of climate change and international security.

We must make no mistake. The facts are clear: climate change is real; it is accelerating in a dangerous manner; and it not only exacerbates threats to international peace and security, it is a threat to international peace and security.

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.

Pakistan, the Pacific Islands, Russia, Western Europe, the Philippines, Colombia, Australia, Brazil, the United States, China, the Horn of Africa - these examples should remind us of the urgency of what we face.

Just today, the United Nations declared a state of famine in two regions of southern Somalia.

Around the world, hundreds of millions of people are in danger of going short of food and water, undermining the most essential foundations of local, national, and global stability.

Competition between communities and countries for scarce resources –especially water – is increasing, exacerbating old security dilemmas and creating new ones.

Environmental refugees are reshaping the human geography of the planet, a trend that will only increase as deserts advance, forests are felled, and sea-levels rise.

Mega crises may well become the new normal.

These are all threats to human security, as well as to international peace and security.

Since I delivered my report to the General Assembly in 2009, the international community has reached certain agreements in Copenhagen and Cancún in the context of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

These agreements provide an important, but incomplete, foundation for action on reducing greenhouse gas emissions and enabling all countries to adapt.

Now we need accelerated operationalization of all the agreements made at Cancún, including on protecting forests, adaptation and technology.

Climate finance, the sine qua non for progress, must move from a conceptual discussion to concrete delivery of “fast start” financing and agreement on sources of long-term financing.

The next UNFCCC Conference of Parties meeting in Durban this December must be decisive in this regard. Minimalist steps will not do.

Negotiations cannot stop there.

We need ambitious targets that ensure that any increase in global average temperature remains below 2 degrees Centigrade.

Durban must provide a clear step forward on mitigation commitments and actions by all parties, according to their responsibilities and capabilities.

Developed countries must lead, while at the same time emerging economies must shoulder their fair share.

We cannot ignore history. But we must clearly recognise that there can be no spectators when it comes to securing the future of our planet.

Given that the first commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol expires next year, a political formula must be found without delay to ensure that existing commitments and needed future commitments and actions are not delayed by negotiating gamesmanship.

Mr. President,

The Security Council can play a vital role in making clear the link between climate change, peace and security.

The Members of this Council bear a unique responsibility to mobilize national and international action to confront the very real threat of climate change and the specific threats to international peace and security which derive from it.

Of course, nothing would build a lasting foundation for a more peaceful world than securing sustainable development for all of our citizens.

In this regard, I urge all UN Member States to fully utilize the opportunity provided by next year's Rio+20 UN Conference on Sustainable Development.

In Rio we need to join the dots between energy security, food and nutrition security, water security, climate security and development, so that all our peoples can enjoy prosperity, peace, and international security.

Mr. President,

I thank you again for organizing this debate and lending the political weight of the Security Council to raising awareness of this important issue.

I have called climate change the defining issue of our time.

Indeed we must go even further.

We must make sustainable development for all the defining issue of our time because it is only in that broader framework that we can address climate change and the needs of our citizens.

Re-writing this history falls to us all.

Thank you very much.