18 february 2013

China and Russia block UN Security Council climate change action

By Ed King, Responding To Climate Change 18 February 2013

Russia and China blocked efforts last Friday to have climate change
recognised as an international security threat by the UN Security
Council (UNSC).

The council met in New York to discuss the potential effects of global
warming, but according to Bloomberg the two permanent members objected
to it being a ‘formal session’.

Despite the participation of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon this
meant the session ­ planned by Pakistan and the United Kingdom ­ had
few political implications.

China, Russia, India and more than 100 developing countries oppose
climate becoming a UNSC issue as the council does not operate under the
principles of Common But Differentiated Responsibility, which underpins
the UN climate talks.

They are concerned that securitizing the issue would place a greater
burden on poorer nations with large greenhouse gas emissions to take

Small island states vulnerable to sea level rises have pushed for
climate to be discussed at this level for over two decades.

Marshall Islands representative Tony deBrum expressed frustration with
Russia and China’s stance, explaining that 35 years on from gaining
independence from the USA the very existence of his country is now in

“Our roads are inundated every 14 days,” he said. “We have to ration
water three times a week. People have emergency kits for water. We can
no longer use well water because it’s inundated with salt.”

The meeting ­ the third in UNSC history ­ was convened by council
President Pakistan and permanent member the United Kingdom, which
despite domestic criticism over its low carbon strategy appears to be
embarking on a new initiative to inject momentum into global efforts to
cut emissions.

The UK’s new climate envoy Rear Admiral Neil Morisetti is pushing for
climate change to be framed as a global security concern.

“The UK believes that the impacts of a changing climate pose a
significant and emerging threat to a country’s national security and
prosperity,” a Foreign Office spokesman told RTCC.

“The UK is engaging with our international partners and through
international forums to better manage this risk.”

Risk multiplier

A 2009 report commissioned by the council identified climate change as
a ‘threat multiplier’, stressing it would hit food supply lines and
affect the territorial integrity of island states.

And in 2011 it discussed whether ‘green helmet’ climate peacekeepers
could be required to prevent conflicts caused by resource scarcity.

Addressing the session, leading German scientist Joachim Schellnhuber
explained that rises in global temperatures were likely to have
catastrophic consequences.

“With unabated greenhouse-gas emissions, humankind would venture into
an uncertain future that is much hotter than ever before in its history
­ so from a scientist’s perspective, climate change is a global risk
multiplier,” he said.

The World Bank’s Rachel Kyte told delegates cities must take the lead
in developing low carbon infrastructure, in terms of transport, urban
planning and managing water resources.

In a statement Oxfam International’s Tim Gore urged the UNSC to debate
the issue further, warning the global food system was already under
severe stress as a result of droughts across the US, Africa and Asia.

“Droughts or floods can wipe out entire harvests, as we have seen in
recent years in Pakistan, in the Horn of Africa and across the Sahel,”
he said.

“And when extreme weather hits major world food producers ­ like last
year’s droughts in the US and Russia ­ world food prices rocket. This
presents a major risk to net food importing countries, such as Yemen,
which ships in 90% of its wheat.

“The food riots and social unrest seen in the wake of the 2008 food
price spikes were not a one-off phenomenon, but a sign of the risks we
face through our failure to feed a warming world.”

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