UNITED NATIONS - Britain and China faced off on Tuesday in the first-ever UN Security Council debate on climate change, with Beijing saying the 15-member body had no competence in dealing with global warming. But British Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett, who chaired the meeting, argued that the potential for climate change to cause wars had to move from the fringes of the debate to the Security Council, the most powerful UN body.
"Our responsibility in this council is to maintain international peace and security, including the prevention of conflict," said Beckett, whose country holds the current council presidency. "An unstable climate will exacerbate some of the core drivers of conflict -- such as migratory pressures and competition for resources." She noted that Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, whose economy depends on hydropower from a reservoir depleted by drought, had called climate change "an act of aggression by the rich against the poor."
No resolution is expected and Russia, China, Qatar, Indonesia and South Africa, among others, also warned that the council, whose mandate is only peace and security, was not the place to take concrete action.
But UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon supported the debate, which Beckett called "a groundbreaking day in the history of the Security Council." "Projected changes in the earth's climate are thus not only an environmental concern," Ban said. "And -- as the council points up today -- issues of energy and climate change can have implications for peace and security."