Secretary-General's press encounter after Security Council Meeting on the Impact of Climate Change on International Peace and Security
New York, 20 July 2011SG: Good morning, ladies and gentlemen,
It is good to see you again. I came back yesterday from my European trips to Finland and Geneva. In Geneva I attended the Third Global Review on Aid for Trade, and I had a bilateral meeting with President [Micheline] Calmy-Rey of Switzerland. Of course, in Finland I participated in a debate forum on sustainable development with President [Tarja] Halonen and met other officials. Those visits to the two countries were very important and constructive.
Again, as you have heard, I have just spoken to the Security Council on the subject of climate change and international peace and security.
I am grateful to Ambassador [Peter] Wittig of Germany to have organized this very important meeting dealing with the important subject of climate change.
As the effects of climate change increase, so too will the threats to international peace and security.
Extreme weather events are becoming more frequent, more intense and affecting ever more people.
The consequences include massive loss of life, human suffering and economic loss.
Mega crises are becoming the new normal.
We need to prepare better and respond better.
In particular, we need to address the destabilizing effect of food security on individuals, communities, countries and whole regions.
Today, the United Nations declared a state of famine in two regions of southern Somalia: southern Bakool and Lower Shabelle.
Across Somalia, nearly half of the population - 3.7 million people - are now in crisis.
An estimated 2.8 million of these people are in the south.
This will have an increasingly devastating effect - not just in Somalia, but on the other countries in the region.
The United Nations has been sounding the alert for months.
We need donor support to address current needs and prevent a further deterioration of the crisis.
Humanitarian agencies need urgent funding to save lives.
If funding is not made available for humanitarian interventions now, the famine is likely to continue and spread.
The overall requirement is 1.6 billion dollars for Somalia. Roughly US$300 million is needed in the next two months to provide an adequate response to famine-affected areas.
Children and adults are dying at an appalling rate. Every day of delay will cost more lives.
In the longer term, we need to work to prevent such famines and other emergencies from occurring.
This is a complex process, and is too often inseparable from the political situation on the ground.
But, there is an overarching issue - climate change and sustainable development, which is what I have been speaking about today in the Security Council.
These are the defining issues of our time.
If we do not address the fundamentals of climate change we will have more floods, famines and other disasters.
And it is only in that broader framework of sustainable development that we can address climate change, international peace and security and the needs of all our citizens.
Thank you very much.
Q: Mr. Secretary-General, you keep calling climate change a signature issue, and yet here we are at the Security Council in 2011 and the two sides are divided pretty much along the same lines they were in the first debate in 2007, and in terms of the global community there isn't any consensus on mandatory goals. Why do you think you have failed to convince the world community that it is a signature agreement, and the UN in broader terms is unable to reach consensus on this issue?
SG: I have made it, on many occasions, quite clear, science has [made] it plainly clear that climate change is happening, therefore the whole international community should take up this issue as a matter of priority, and that is what the United Nations has been leading this campaign. I appreciate that the Security Council is also taking up this matter. There are of course certain institutional frameworks like the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change [UNFCCC]. We will have that meeting in Durban. What I have been emphasizing is that climate change and sustainable development in a broader sense should be the priority of our work overall, thus the United Nations should lead this. Therefore this meeting is very important to raise political awareness at the Security Council level. I will continue to do that.
SG: I believe that this has been on top of the global agenda. Every country, everybody in the world understands the seriousness and urgency of this issue. The only question is that, depending upon the countries, or communities in the regions, some countries, some communities are not yet ready to take mitigation action. That is why the international community is trying to mobilize, first of all, all political leadership, commitment and necessary resources. There are some differences in addressing these issues between developing and developed countries. That is why the developed world should provide necessary financial and technological support so that they can adapt and mitigate these consequences.
Q: Mr. Secretary-General, UK's Sir David King, former chief scientist and respected figure on climate change policy, has just recently said that it may be too late to wait for an internationally agreed-upon binding treaty from the international community that may take what he said up to maybe twenty years, so making it too late to mitigate climate change. His thoughts are to maybe promote voluntary measures from individual countries, on for example, taking measures for carbon emissions, for example. What are your thoughts on that?
SG: Since 2007, the international community gradually has made some progress - in Copenhagen, and also most importantly in Cancun last year. In Cancun they had made quite good foundations for our further discussions, further negotiations, particularly on deforestation and capacity building, climate change financing, technology transfer and adaptation – on those five areas we had made good progress.
But much more needs to be done in Durban.
I am also concerned by the slow pace of negotiations. That is why we have been urging the leaders of the world to take a political leadership role, political priority. Depending upon where political leaders put their priority we can make a difference. While it is frustratingly slow, we are making progress, and I believe that we will make more progress in Durban. For example, President [Jacob] Zuma in his capacity as Chair of the UNFCCC meeting, and previous Chair of Mexico, they are going to convene a high-level meeting on September 20th in New York. Before that, President Halonen and President Zuma are also going to engage with a high-level panel on sustainable development on September 18th . So we are now raising political voices, the political leadership role. We are working very hard.
Q: You talked about how politics can get in the way of settlement or progress on climate change. Are you concerned that politics are going to get in the way of getting aid into Somalia, specifically concerns about resources going to Al-Shabab? Is that a worry? Will it slow aid, or prevent aid, in your opinion?
SG: Aid should be delivered to the people who need it. That is what the United Nations is taking very seriously to monitor. We have to have funding – urgently. Even this morning I have spoken with President [José Manuel Durão] Barroso of the European Commission and I discussed this matter with a sense of urgency, and he assured me that the European Commission will do whatever they can. He is going to dispatch his commissioner on humanitarian affairs to Somalia very soon, and based on that, the European Union will look at this issue very seriously to mobilize the necessary funding. I have been appealing to world leaders, to the world community, to respond favourably and urgently to these very, very urgent, serious issues. The harrowing reports which I receive every day [are] really very sad, and very heartbreaking, so we have to mobilize all our support.
Thank you very much.