Ambassador Berger on security implications of climate change

May 20, 2011

The following opening remarks were delivered by Ambassador Berger at a conference on "Security Implications of Climate Change",
hosted by the Permanent Mission of Germany and the Permanent Mission of Portugal at the German Mission:

(as delivered)

Honorable Minister, Excellencies, dear Panelists, colleagues,

It is a great pleasure and honour for me to welcome you at the German mission for a discussion on the possible security implications of climate change, which Portugal and Germany are hosting jointly. I particularly welcome His Excellency, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of the Marshall Islands, who in a minute will present to us the perspective of the Pacific Small Island Developing States on this important topic.

In recent years we witnessed a series of unprecedented droughts and floodings in several countries leading to situations of potential insecurity. There is a trend towards more and more extreme weather situations. Food prices increased globally and have almost reached an all time high – with destabilising implications and, of course, devastating effects on daily lives of millions of people.

In addition, we have to face devastating effects of sea level rise on low-lying coastal areas and small island states. Scientists tell us, that the sea–level may rise significantly until the end of this century. In the Pacific, the relocation of communities living in small and low-lying areas has already commenced. This issue has serious security implications and we will try to examine them today.

There is a broad consensus that these developments – sea level rise, food insecurity, floodings, drougths -  are very closely linked to climate change. Climate change is one of the key challenges for human well-being, and there can be no doubt that the sometimes devastating effects of climate change are a concern to peace and security.

Back in 2007 under UK-presidency the Security Council discussed this issue for the first time ever. Since then the international debate on this issue has gained even more momentum The UN General Assembly in 2009 called upon UN organs to discuss the security implications of climate change within their respective mandate. The UN Secretary-General has clearly spelled out the security risks of climate change in his report on the possible security implications of climate change in 2009.

It is therefore time that the Security Council looks once again into the link between climate and security. The primary responsibility for international peace and security that lies with the Council goes beyond dealing with current crises and conflicts; the Security Council is also very much engaged in the area of conflict prevention. Dealing today with the possible implications of climate change on peace and security is crisis prevention.

We have heard some concerns expressed by colleagues. Therefore let me be clear: By bringing the security implications of climate change back to the Councils agenda, we are not in any way intending to substitute or duplicate climate negotiations. It is UNFCCC that has the mandate to do that and is the right place to make progress. Each forum of the United Nations has its own perspective and mandate, therefore the Security Council will concentrate on the implications and challenges for peace and security.

We are envisaging an open debate in the Security Council on the security implications of climate change in July, the month Germany will hold the presidency of the Security Council. Today’s discussion should provide ground work for that debate. In particular, the discussion should help clarify:

a.  What is the relevance of climate change and its security implications for the Security Council and

b.  What can the Council do to adress security implications of climate change?

I am looking forward to a lively discussion.

Thank you!

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