Security Council declares global warming threat to international security

Security Council declares global warming threat to international security

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[JURIST] The UN Security Council [official website] on Wednesday made their first official statement [text, PDF] implicating climate change as a serious threat to world peace and security. At the urging of Germany, which released a Concept Note [text] to lead the discussion, the Security Council debated global warming [EPA materials; JURIST news archive] for the first time since 2007. Although Germany pushed for plans of action to be produced on extreme temperatures, rising sea-levels, climate refugees and food shortages, the Council ended up issuing a brief statement instead. The language was reportedly not as strong as some of the nations wanted [BBC report], as Russia pushed for the phrase “possible security implications” in the official text, and denied the other countries the creation of a “green helmets” peacekeeping force [Guardian report] that would step into conflicts where environmental resources become scarce. The statement does affirm that depleting resources has been, and will continue to be, the cause of several international conflicts:

The Security Council notes that in matters relating to the maintenance of international peace and security under its consideration, conflict analysis and contextual information on, inter alia, possible security implications of climate change is important, when such issues are drivers of conflict, represent a challenge to the implementation of Council mandates or endanger the process of consolidation of peace. In this regard, the Council requests the Secretary-General to ensure that his reporting to the Council contains such contextual information.

China also felt the debate was inappropriate for the Security Council, arguing the organization should focus strictly on peacekeeping missions. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon [official profile] made remarks [text] on climate change to the Council, explaining why such a discussion is appropriate:

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.

A presidential statement typically occurs when the Council cannot reach enough of consensus to pass a resolution. Security Council members may abstain from a statement, but none did in this instance. Statements are not legally binding to countries in the UN.

In December 2007, the UN Climate Change Conference [official website] agreed in Bali, Indonesia, to a timetable for negotiating an international treaty on global warming [JURIST report]. Under the “Bali Roadmap” [text, PDF; press release, PDF], the 187 participating nations pledged to a negotiate a new agreement to replace the expiring Kyoto Protocol [text; JURIST news archive] at the 2009 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, Denmark. This resulted in the Copenhagen Accord [text, PDF], which is not legally binding nor replaces the Kyoto Protocol, but endorses the continuation of the Protocol. The 2010 UN Climate Change Conference also resulted in no major binding agreements for nations. The next climate change conference is scheduled for November 2011.