Sunday, January 27, 2008

UK Used Presidency of UN Security Council to Incorporate Sustainable Development Within Broader Council Mandate

UK Used Presidency of UN Security Council to Incorporate Sustainable Development Within Broader Council Mandate

During September 2005, the UN Security Council adopted Resolution S/RES/1625 (14 September 2005), declaring "the effectiveness of the Security Council's role in conflict prevention [and] reaffirming the need to adopt a broad strategy to conflict prevention, which addresses the root causes of armed conflict in a comprehensive manner, including by promoting sustainable development.

"Reaffirming the need to adopt a broad strategy of conflict prevention, which addresses the root causes of armed conflict and political and social crises in a comprehensive manner, including by promoting sustainable development, poverty eradication, national reconciliation, good governance, democracy, gender equality, the rule of law and respect for and protection of human rights..."

"...2. Affirms its determination to strengthen United Nations conflict
prevention capacities by:

...(g) helping to enhance durable institutions conducive to peace, stability and sustainable development..."

Building upon Security Council Resolution 1625, during April 2007, UK Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett used Britain’s then presidency of the Security Council as a platform to promote sustainable development as a separate rationale to preserve international peace and security. This indirectly served the purpose of pushing reform of the Security Council’s traditional scope of jurisdiction and authority.[1] In particular, she insisted that the UN Security Council expand its jurisdictional mandate, traditionally limited to ‘prevention of conflicts’ and ‘maintenance of international peace and security’, so that it also covers ‘collective global environmental threats’ to sustainable development, such as climate change.[2]

In pursuing this multilateral campaign, Ms. Beckett not unexpectedly relied on the recently issued Stern and UN Intergovernmental Climate Change Committee Reports [3] to raise the specter of an impending global environmental and human disaster should the member states of the United Nations fail to reach a political ‘burden-sharing’ (a/k/a economic wealth redistribution and technology transfer) accord that proactively and adequately addresses the hazards posed by runaway climate change. Many left-leaning politicians, scientific academies and environmentalists in Europe and the United States have likewise used these controversial reports to squelch the scientific debate over the causes and effects of climate change.[4]

This proposal was contained in a more formal UK concept paper that resulted in the Security Council’s first debate on environmental issues. The Security Council Report documenting this meeting states the following:

“1. All members of the international community face a shared dilemma. To ensure well-being for a growing population with unfulfilled needs and rising expectations, we must grow our economies. Should we fail, we increase the risk of conflict and insecurity. To grow our economies we must continue to use more energy. Much of that energy will be in the form of fossil fuels. But if we use more fossil fuels without mitigating the resulting emissions, we will accelerate climate change, which itself presents risks to the very security we are trying to build.

2. The aim of the debate is to raise awareness of a set of significant future security risks facing the international community as a result of failing to resolve this shared dilemma, to promote a shared understanding of these risks, and to explore ways to address them.

3. The focus of the debate will be on the security implications of a changing climate, including through its impact on potential drivers of conflict (such as access to energy, water, food and other scarce resources, population movements and border disputes). No other international forum has yet addressed these issues from this perspective. A Security Council discussion will therefore make a useful initial contribution, while recognizing that it is for other United Nations bodies (in particular the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) to pursue other aspects of climate change that are not within the mandate of the Security Council (including action to stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a safe level, based on the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities).

... 6. While the physical effects of climate change and what can be done about them are important issues, it is their potential impact on security that is the proposed focus of this Security Council debate.”

The UN Security Council Report then proceeded to outline the following key ‘security risks’ posed by climate change which would not only contribute mightily to political efforts aimed at raising public fears about the hypothetical impacts arising from climate change, but would also justify greater UN involvement in national sovereign affairs:

Border Disputes

A significant proportion of current threats to international peace and security are disputes over borders or land. Melting ice and rising sea levels caused by climate change are likely to result in major changes to the world’s physical landmass during this century. Will political and maritime borders change as well?... [T]he possible submergence of entire small island States, dramatically receding coastlines, and the development of new shipping routes...could all lead to disputes over maritime zones and other territorial rights.


[S]ubstantial parts of the world risk being left uninhabitable by rising sea levels, reduced freshwater availability or declining agricultural capacity. This will exacerbate existing migratory pressures from rural areas to cities, from unproductive land to more fertile land, and across international borders... Migration does not in itself lead directly to conflict. But it can alter the ethnic composition and/or population distribution within and between States, which can increase the potential for instability and conflict

Energy Supplies

There is already extensive discussion on the relationship between energy resources and the risk of conflict, in terms of competition over scarce energy resources, security of supply, and the role energy resources play once conflict has broken out. Climate change is expected to complicate this relationship still further, presenting us with a shared dilemma about how to balance our climate and energy objectives while preserving security...

Other Resource Changes

Climate change is likely to make essential resources (notably freshwater, cultivable land, crop yields and fish stocks) more scarce in many parts of the world, particularly in already vulnerable societies. Resource scarcity threatens people’s livelihoods, especially when changes occur relatively quickly. Much depends on the adequacy of adaptation strategies. But increased scarcity increases the risk of competition over resources within and between communities and States. This can create instability, increasing vulnerability to conflict...

Societal Stress

The 2006 Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change noted that climate change was a major challenge to poverty reduction, affecting the poorest countries earliest and most. The tensions that climate change through its impact on development — and hence inequality — could produce within and between States might not in themselves necessarily lead to conflict. But in some weaker States — e.g., where severe inequalities occur among different groups in society, for example on ethnic grounds — political violence within and between States may become more likely.

Humanitarian Crises

Climate change is likely to increase the risk of extreme weather events that may become sudden humanitarian emergencies. There are already indications that such events, especially on a large scale, can exacerbate societal and cross-border stresses, with potential consequent political and security impacts. There is a proven correlation between drought and the likelihood of high intensity conflicts in some regions, and some Governments have struggled to cope with the social consequences of major natural disasters. 8. Conflicts often start when societies cannot cope with multiple stresses...”

It is interesting to note how the Security Council referred to the term ‘correlation’ rather than ‘causation’.

While standing their political ground, it was apparent that Madams Merkel and Beckett had side-stepped the important scientific debate that continues to rage throughout the world. This debate concerns the extent to which certain human activities can actually be shown to cause measurable global warming or to merely correlate with a barely observable rise in global temperatures that may or may not prove cyclical in nature. Ordinary scientists, engineers and business people, the world over, know quite well that there is a marked difference between causation and correlation, and that they can make rationally-based decisions in their daily lives guided only by the ‘knowables’ in life rather than the ‘unknowables’.

Did Ms. Beckett’s reference to the term ‘correlation’ rather than ‘causation’ suggest a nuanced effort to base intergovernmental regulatory policy on popularly fanned fears about largely hypothetical, unpredictable and/or unknowable future natural and man-made hazards that have not yet been shown to pose direct ascertainable risks to human health or the environment???

[1] See "Update Report No. 2 Energy, Security and Climate", UN Security Council (12 April 2007) at: [2] See “Opening Statement of Margaret Beckett at UN Security Council Climate Change Debate” British Embassy Buenos Aires (April 17, 2007) at: .
[3] See “Speech of Margaret Beckett and UN Security Council Climate Change Debate On Energy, Climate and Security” Foreign and Commonwealth Office News (April 17, 2007) at: . [4] See, e.g., “Royal Society Letter to ExxonMobil Requesting ExxonMobil to Stop Funding of Lobby Groups that Seek to Misrepresent the Scientific Evidence Relating to Climate Change” (Sept. 4, 2006) at: ; “Rockefeller and Snowe Demand that Exxon Mobil End Funding of Campaign that Denies Global Climate Change”, Press Release, Office of United States Senator for Maine, Olympia Snowe (Oct. 30, 3006) at: ; Michael Erman, “Greenpeace: Exxon Still Funding Climate Skeptics”, Reuters (May 17, 2007) at: .

No comments: