Secretary-General calls for unity against climate change, better access to resources

Security Council

17 April 2007 – Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today called for a “long-term global response” to deal with climate change, along with unified efforts involving the Security Council, Member States and other international bodies to deal with the problem of scare resources, warning that countries’ lack of access to water, energy and other essentials can lead to conflict.

Addressing the Security Council’s open debate on energy, security and climate, Mr. Ban pointed to recent UN evidence showing not only that the planet’s warming is unequivocal but also that its impact is clearly noticeable, and “beyond doubt that human activities have been contributing considerably to it.”

“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,” he said.

“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,” he said.

He warned that that projected changes in the earth’s climate are more than an environmental concern. “They can also have serious social and economic implications.”

Mr. Ban illustrated his remarks with six possible scenarios showing the danger to world security caused by increasing climate change, coupled with States’ lack of access to scarce resources, including limited or threatened access to energy.

He pointed out that human relations are easier at times of plenty but when resources are scarce the earth’s fragile ecosystems become strained, along with “the coping mechanisms of groups and individuals,” and this can lead to a “breakdown of established codes of conduct, and even outright conflict.”

Calling for the involvement of civil society and the private sector, he said the Security Council “has a role to play in working with other competent intergovernmental bodies to address the possible root causes of conflict discussed today.”

Mr. Ban pledged the UN’s readiness to assist in this effort. “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,” he concluded.

Representatives from over 50 Member States spoke during the day-long debate, expressing a wide range of viewpoints.

German Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul, also speaking for the European Union, said the world was expecting “new and determined measures from governments and the UN” on climate change. “The EU is prepared to play its part in efforts to address these challenges at the global level and is calling upon others to do the same,” he said.

Qatar’s Ambassador, Abdulaziz Al-Nasser, said international efforts to address climate change had failed so far because the problem had become completely separated from the issue of development. “We firmly believe that any successful solution to the climate change problem must emerge as part of an integrated approach to sustainable development,” he said.

Speaking on behalf of Pacific Small Island States, Papua New Guinea’s Ambassador Robert Aisi reminded the Council that the islands were already feeling the effects of climate change, through more intense cyclones, a rising number of “king tides,” and increasing incidence of vector-borne diseases such as malaria and dengue fever.

“Climate change, climate variability, and sea-level rise are therefore not just environmental concerns, but also economic, social and political issues for Pacific Island countries. They strike the very heart of our existence,” he said.

Several African countries supported the Council’s discussion of climate change, in contrast to the representative of the Group of 77 (G-77), a coalition of developing countries, who said it was best dealt with by the 192-member General Assembly and other bodies rather than by the 15-member Security Council.

Ghanaian representative Leslie K. Christian said: “It is our fervent hope that the repeated alarm about the grave threats posed by climate change, especially to regions that are already struggling with chronic instability, shall lead to action that is timely, concerted and sustainable, in order to alleviate the negative consequences of the phenomenon.”

However, Pakistani Representative Farukh Amil, speaking for the G-77, said the issue of climate change did not belong in the Security Council, but rather in the General Assembly, the Economic and Social Council, the Commission on Sustainable Development, and in the Climate Change Convention.

“We hope that the decision by the Council to hold this debate does not create a precedent or undermine the authority or mandate of the relevant bodies, process and instrument, which are already addressing these issues,” said Mr. Amil.

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