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U.N. Security Council to Take Up Climate Change

More developing nations back the idea that global warming is an issue for the council



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UNITED NATIONS -- The U.N. Security Council will debate climate change for the second time in four years, its current chair announced yesterday.

The July 20 discussion, led by the German government, will be a repeat of a 2007 attempt by the United Kingdom to put climate change on the council's agenda. That earlier move garnered sharp criticism from many developing country leaders, who accused the 15-member panel of attempting to strip power from other U.N. groups.

This time, however, Germany has the full backing of several developing countries, most notably an alliance of small island nations that feel threatened by rising sea levels. That group also wants the Security Council to regularly debate climate change and to appoint a special adviser to investigate the risks to national sovereignty that global warming may pose.

"We undertook the initiative to put this on the agenda on the 20th within the framework of an open debate," said Peter Wittig, Germany's ambassador to the United Nations. "We're going to focus on security issues of climate change. We don't want to replicate all of the various fora in which climate change is being discussed."

Attitudes toward bringing up climate change at the Security Council have changed dramatically in the past few years, and advocates of council action say the tide has turned from strong opposition to possible action on the matter.

Initially, opponents to the U.K.-hosted deliberations charged that the council was pressing into a topic that was a matter for the General Assembly and the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) alone. Others felt that it was odd to add to the Security Council's workload. Coalitions representing more than 100 developing countries sent formal letters of complaint. The debate was held regardless, but the sharp criticisms shut down the possibility of a follow-up meeting.

Two years later, the General Assembly adopted a resolution asking all U.N. organs to examine the implications of rising global temperatures in a way that fit their various operating mandates.

Germany now says the Security Council is following up on this request. Wittig took pains to stress that the council will only discuss the "security implications" of climate change, with a special focus on the possible threat faced by small island states and coastal states due to rising sea levels. The council is also slated to discuss food security implications.

Discussions will hopefully be narrowly focused on "the existential threat, especially to small island states and coastal states, by sea level rise" as well as "the effects that climate change has on food sec and the risk that it entails for the maintenance of peace and security," Wittig said.

Small island governments want the Security Council to go even further.

John Silk, foreign minister of the Marshall Islands, said his and other governments will press to have the Security Council appoint a special adviser on climate and security. Such an adviser, he said, should be charged with investigating where and how territory may be lost as a result of a rise in global sea levels.

Scientists say that ocean warming and ice cap melting will make a rise in ocean levels of 1 to 2 meters by 2100 inevitable.

The Marshall Islands minister also said small island governments want the council to discuss climate change on a regular basis, ideally once every month. By placing the issue permanently on the agenda, advocates of climate action said they hope a general sense of urgency will grow stronger and perhaps propel international climate negotiations toward a successful conclusion.

Reprinted from Climatewire with permission from Environment & Energy Publishing, LLC. www.eenews.net, 202-628-6500

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