Climate change –a matter for the Security Council?
The security implications of climate change: an international debate in the German House, New York, on 20 May 2011
Discussion in the German House, New York
© adelphi research
Climate change poses many serious risks, among them increasing food shortages, and territorial losses caused by rising sea levels. A debate on 20 May organized by the German and Portuguese Permanent Missions to the United Nations in New York highlighted the implications of these trends for peace and security. Around a hundred policymakers and research scientists discussed the possibility of the UN Security Council considering the subject of climate change, something planned for July under the German Presidency. Participants were agreed that the Security Council had long since stopped focusing merely on acute conflict management, and that handling looming conflicts was also one of its acknowledged tasks.
The Permanent Missions of Germany and Portugal to the United Nations, in cooperation with adelphi research experts, had issued the invitation to the event in the German House to discuss the security implications of climate change with representatives of the diplomatic missions in New York before the Security Council considers the matter as planned.
Lonely beach in Bikini Atoll, Marshall Islands
© picture alliance / WaterFrame
In his introductory remarks, the Foreign Minister of the Marshall Islands, H.E. Hon. John Silk, made it emphatically clear that rising sea levels are already visibly reducing the availability of food and water in his country. The resulting scarcity of resources, he said, pretty much invited conflict.
Huge dangers for coastal regions
Professor Messner of the German Advisory Council on Global Change (WBGU) took this perspective further: he pointed out that there was not only this existential danger for the Small Island States but also a huge danger for towns and infrastructure in coastal regions around the world. As many fragile states were affected, he said, increased efforts towards conflict prevention were needed.
The possible destabilizing effects of food shortages are already endangering peace and stability in various parts of the world, said Alexander Müller, Deputy Director-General of the FAO, and Belynda Petrie, CEO of OneWorld, Cape Town. Trends like continuing urbanization, growing populations (particularly in Africa and Asia) and unharnessed climate change would, they said, probably greatly exacerbate crises which were already erupting into violence.
Signal to other UN bodies
A discussion in the UN Security Council of the security-relevant risks posed by climate change is also intended to send a signal, raising awareness of the possible negative repercussions on climate change for various UN fields of work. Every UN forum has its own specific tasks, mandate and perspective. In the Security Council’s case, this means a concentration on climate change’s impact on peace and security, not least in the fields of post-conflict peacebuilding and peacekeeping measures.
Last updated 25.05.2011