Statement by Ambassador Wittig on Climate Security in the Security Council Open Debate

Jul 20, 2011

(as delivered)

I shall now make a statement in my national capacity. Germany aligns itself with the statement to be made by the European Union.

At the outset I would like to join others in thanking the Secretary-General for participating in today's debate. His remarks and his presence are a strong signal of the UN’s engagement in the debate of climate change and its security implications.

Let me also join my colleagues in thanking the Executive Director of UNEP, Mr. Steiner, for his insightful and instructive briefing.

Over one year ago, the Pacific Small Island States urged the Security Council to consider the security implications of climate change. They appealed to the Security Council to fulfil its mandate for the maintenance of international peace and security.

The reason that these countries urged the Security Council to act is clear: already today they suffer from the security implications of climate change. They have to deal with rising sea-levels, loss of land and increasing scarcity of ressources. The governments of these countries have to resettle their people and they have to assure that the distribution of basic commodities doesn’t turn into violent fights for survival. For them the security dimension of climate change is crystal clear, it is their daily challenge.

The situation of the Small Island States is a compelling reason in itself to discuss today’s matter in the Security Council. At this point it might be useful to remember that the United Nations have always drawn their unique legitimacy from the equality of states: big or small, rich or poor – each state has the same right for its existential fears and threats to be adressed.

There is, however, even more reason for the Council to debate the security dimension of climate change: because what happens to some small island states today, might well happen to other countries tomorrow. Most national security establishments consider the threat of global warming as one of the biggest challenges of the 21st century.

And if we take a look at the conflicts on the agenda of the Council, we’ll easily see that quite a few of these conflicts are – already today – driven by desertification, lack of water and increased transborder migration. We have no doubt that the environmental degradation due to climate change very often acts as a driver of conflict. We all know that conflicts of this sort do not remain isolated within a single country, but on the contrary tend to destabilize whole regions. And we should also keep in mind that not all states and societies have the same capacity to adapt to the dramatic changes in their environment.

The mandate of the Security Council is the maintenance of international peace and security. We are convinced that it is the Council’s duty to act with foresight and to do its best to prevent crises before they become acute. We therefore welcome that the Council has succesfully debated structural aspects of conflicts before, e.g. the interrelatedness of development or HIV with security.

Keeping in mind the mandate of the Council we suggested to focus today’s debate strictly on the security implications of climate change. Let me be very clear: Germany does not want the Council to infringe upon the competences of UNFCCC or other UN organs and we did not and do not intend to advance any kind of encroachment.

We regret that it was  - at least until now - not possible to find an agreement on an outcome document for today’s meeting. I would like to reiterate that Germany has a keen interest in a Security Council that rises beyond the day-to-day management of acute crisis but takes into consideration the underlying causes of conflict. It was our intention to ask the Secretary-General for a sound basis for these discussions.

While we would have preferred - and still prefer - that the Council found common grounds on this request, the strong interest of the membership in today’s debate makes one thing clear: the members want to see this topic on the agenda of the Council.

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