The U.N. Security Council has held an unprecedented debate on the impact of climate change on global peace and security. But as VOA's Peter Heinlein reports from U.N. headquarters, the debate prompted objections from developing countries.
British Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett presided over a Security Council meeting on global warming Tuesday, calling it a groundbreaking day in the Council's history.
"This is the first time ever that we will debate climate change as a matter of international peace and security," she said.
Previously, climate change had been the province of other U.N. bodies, including the General Assembly and the Framework Convention on Climate Change.
But Beckett argued the changing climate should be a Security Council issue, because a warmer planet could trigger regional tensions and possibly lead to war.
"An unstable climate will exacerbate some of the core drivers of conflict, such as migratory pressures and competition for resources," she added.
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon joined the debate, noting that projected changes in the earth's climate could have serious social and economic consequences.
"This is especially true in vulnerable regions that face multiple stresses at the same time - pre-existing conflict, poverty and unequal access to resources, weak institutions, food insecurity and incidence of diseases such as HIV/AIDS," he noted.
The United States supported the British initiative. Acting U.S. Ambassador Alejandro Wolff told the Council climate change presents serious challenges.
"The main point I wanted to get across is the seriousness with which the United States takes climate change issues and leadership roles we are playing in devising the most advanced technological incentive arrangements that will ensure that combination of business and other groups together with government deal with these challenges," he said.
But several developing countries objected to the debate. China's Deputy U.N. Ambassador Liu Zhenmin, speaking through an interpreter, argued that the Security Council is the wrong place to discuss an issue of such critical importance to the developing world.
"The developing countries believe that neither has the Security Council the professional competence in handling climate change, nor is it the right decision-making place for extensive participation leading up to widely acceptable proposals," he said.
Pakistan's deputy representative Farukh Amil spoke on behalf of the G-77 group of developing countries that represents the vast majority of U.N. member states. He called the Security Council debate "inappropriate", and charged that it was an attempt by the Council to usurp the authority of other U.N. bodies.
"The ever-increasing encroachment by the Security Council on the roles and responsibilities of other principal organs of the U.N. represents a distortion of the principles of the U.N. Charter," he said.
Britain's Foreign Secretary Beckett told reporters she understands the concerns of developing countries, and she emphasized that the Security Council plans no action on climate change.
She said the main purpose of the groundbreaking debate was simply to raise public awareness of the effects of global warming. She noted that the same idea had worked in 2000, when the Council debated HIV/AIDS for the first time, raising it from what she called the 'fringes' to the 'mainstream' of public consciousness.