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Swiss hail Security Council stance on climate

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The United Nations Security Council has for the first time admitted that the impact of climate change on conflicts is an issue concerning international peace.

This content was published on April 18, 2007 - 10:30

The Swiss ambassador to the UN in New York, Peter Maurer, welcomed the move and called on the council to take into account the needs of the environment when taking future decisions.

"This is a groundbreaking day in the history of the Security Council, the first time ever that we will debate climate change as a matter of international peace and security," said the British foreign secretary, Margaret Beckett, on Tuesday.

Britain holds the council presidency this month and organised an open meeting to highlight the "security imperative" to tackle climate change because it can exacerbate problems that cause conflicts and is threatening the entire planet.

"It's the right thing for the council to take on this issue," Maurer told swissinfo. "The international community must improve its response to a deteriorating climate."

For the Swiss ambassador, it is more necessary than ever to realise the link between a changing environment, our use of natural resources and violent conflict.

Maurer added that the council had every right to discuss the issue within the terms of its mandate.

The two major groups representing developing countries - the Non-Aligned Movement and the Group of 77 – had previously written separate letters accusing the council of "ever-increasing encroachment" on the role and responsibility of other UN organs.

"This is an issue that threatens the peace and security of the whole planet, and the Security Council has to be the right place to debate it," said Beckett. "There are few greater potential threats to our economies too... but also to peace and security itself."

Wide-ranging implications

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told the meeting that projected climate changes not only have serious environmental, social and economic implications but repercussions for peace and security as well.

"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 said.

In his speech, Maurer said that access to clean water, energy, food, and natural resources were some of the main sources of conflict. He suggested that the council take into account environmental questions related to its decisions.

The Swiss ambassador told swissinfo he made two proposals. One was that the council should consider a permanent position to coordinate its work with experts from the UN Environment Programme.

The other was aimed at protecting populations from environmental catastrophes to avoid future conflicts. Maurer invited UN members to Geneva in June to talk about disaster risk reduction.

By the time the daylong meeting ended, a total of 55 countries had spoken. The council did not adopt any statements or resolutions.

swissinfo with agencies

Fighting climate change

The UN wants to improve protection of the environment. Switzerland and Mexico's ambassadors to the organisation have been mandated to explore different options.

The aim is to restructure the UN's fragmented environmental approach to make it more efficient and to coordinate it better with development work and the fight against poverty.

The ambassadors are expected to present their report in May.

Some UN members would like to change the UN Environmental Programme into an independent body within the organisation, coordinating the work of different programmes and agencies.

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