Ban Ki-moon's speeches


Statement at the Security Council debate on energy, security and climate

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Security Council, 17 April 2007

Thank you for the opportunity to address the Security Council on this serious and timely topic.

Throughout human history, people and countries have fought over natural resources. From livestock, watering holes and fertile land, to trade routes, fish stocks and spices, sugar, oil, gold and other precious commodities, war has too often been the means to secure possession of scarce resources. Even today, the uninterrupted supply of fuel and minerals is a key element of geopolitical considerations.

Things are easier at times of plenty, when all can share in the abundance, even if to different degrees. But when resources are scarce -- whether energy, water or arable land -- our fragile ecosystems become strained, as do the coping mechanisms of groups and individuals. This can lead to a breakdown of established codes of conduct, and even outright conflict.

At the 2005 World Summit, Member States renewed their commitment to promoting a culture of prevention of armed conflict. They also pledged to strengthen the capacity of the United Nations to this end. The Security Council adopted resolution 1625 on conflict prevention, particularly in Africa, and reaffirmed the need to address the root causes of conflict.

In a series of reports on conflict prevention, my predecessor, Secretary-General Kofi Annan, pointed to the threats emanating from environmental degradation and resource scarcity. Let me quote from the latest of the reports: “Environmental degradation has the potential to destabilize already conflict-prone regions, especially when compounded by inequitable access or politicization of access to scarce resources. I urge Member States to renew their efforts to agree on ways that allow all of us to live sustainably within the planet’s means.”

Excellencies, allow me to renew and amplify this call. Compared to the cost of conflict and its consequences, the cost of prevention is far lower -- in financial terms but most importantly in human lives, and life quality.

I firmly believe that today, all countries recognize that climate change, in particular, requires a long-term global response, in line with the latest scientific findings, and compatible with economic and social development.

According to the most recent assessments of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the planet’s warming is unequivocal, its impact is clearly noticeable, and it is beyond doubt that human activities have been contributing considerably to it.

Adverse effects are already felt in many areas, including agriculture and food security; oceans and coastal areas; biodiversity and ecosystems; water resources; human health; human settlements; energy, transport and industry; and extreme weather events.

Projected changes in the earth’s climate are thus not only an environmental concern. They can also have serious social and economic implications. And -- as the Council points up today -- issues of energy and climate change can have implications for peace and security. This is especially true in vulnerable regions that face multiple stresses at the same time -- pre-existing conflict, poverty and unequal access to resources, weak institutions, food insecurity, and incidence of diseases such as HIV/AIDS.

Consider the following scenarios -- all alarming, though not alarmist:

  • The adverse effects of changing weather patterns, such as floods and droughts, and related economic costs, including compensation for lost land, could risk polarizing society and marginalizing communities. This, in turn, could weaken the institutional capacity of the State to resolve conflict through peaceful and democratic means, to ensure social cohesion, and to safeguard human rights.
  • Extreme weather events and natural disasters, such as floods and drought, increase the risk of humanitarian emergencies, and thus the risk of instability and dislocation.
  • Migration driven by factors, such as climate change could deepen tensions and conflicts, particularly in regions with large numbers of internally displaced persons and refugees.
  • Scarce resources, especially water and food, could help transform peaceful competition into violence.
  • Limited or threatened access to energy is already known to be a powerful driver of conflict. Our changing planet risk making it more so.
  • And of course, the economic costs and losses of all these scenarios would impede the ability of countries to reach the Millennium Development Goals.

These are, of course, only possible scenarios. But we cannot sit back and watch to see whether they turn into reality. The entire multilateral machinery needs to come together to prevent it from becoming so.

We must focus more clearly on the benefits of early action. The resources of civil society and the private sector must be brought in. And this Council has a role to play in working with other competent intergovernmental bodies to address the possible root causes of conflict discussed today.

The Secretariat stands ready to assist all entities engaged in the pursuit of their respective mandates. I personally look forward to engaging with Member States on these issues, and hope that through discussions in various fora, we can develop a broad consensus on the way forward.