Introduction

Our responsibility in this council is to maintain international peace and security, including the prevention of conflict. An unstable climate will exacerbate some of the core drivers of conflict such as migratory pressures and competition for resources. The recent Stern Report speaks of a potential economic disruption on the scale of the two World Wars and of the Great Depression. That alone will inevitably have an impact on all of our security, developed and developing countries alike. (Margaret Beckett, UK foreign secretary, addressing the United Nations Security Council on 17 April 2007)

Climate change may have certain security implications, but generally speaking it is in essence an issue of sustainable development... Discussing climate change at the Security Council will not help countries in their mitigation efforts, nor will it help developing countries affected by climate change to respond more effectively to it. (Liu Zhenmin, deputy permanent representative of China to the United Nations, speaking to the United Nations Security Council on 17 April 2007)

To ask whether the United Nations Security Council should take up climate and energy insecurity seems, on initial inspection, an almost pointless question. As other authors in this book have demonstrated, climate change and energy concerns present a major new security policy challenge. Climate change may be the most daunting problem of the century, posing a risk to international security and world peace. With a mandate to maintain international peace and security (Article 34 of the UN Charter)1, it would seem only logical that the Security Council should play a significant role in addressing this challenge. Instead of asking why the UN Security Council should be involved in climate and energy concerns, it seems more reasonable to ask: why should it not? If this isn't an issue for the UN's most powerful body, what is? What other group could hope to tackle this global threat?

In fact, there are some valid objections to placing this matter in the hands of the Security Council - at least for now. Equally, there are compelling reasons for addressing the issue elsewhere.

This chapter considers the arguments both for and against placing the matter more firmly in the domain of the Security Council. It suggests that, when it comes to climate change and related energy issues, the primary focus of diplomats in the coming months and years should be elsewhere - namely, the ongoing talks taking place under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and its Kyoto Protocol. Talks under these treaties are at a critical stage, with negotiators seeking to reach an agreement by December 2009 on a global framework to tackle climate change after 2012. While climate and energy insecurity is not the primary focus of these talks, the UNFCCC process offers an unprecedented opportunity to set rules for how the international community mitigates and adapts to climate change through to 2020 and beyond. These rules could directly affect the pace and severity of climate change in the coming decades, which will, in turn, impact upon the level of security risk.

Finally, this chapter argues that although other processes and bodies certainly do have a role to play, they should in no way be allowed to jeopardize, supplant or distract from the current work under the UNFCCC and its protocol.

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