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Ministry Statements and Speeches 2013

United Nations Security Council - Arria Formula Meeting On | The Security Dimensions Of Climate Change

Statement by Stephanie Lee Chargé D’Affaires A.I. , 15 February 2013

I thank Pakistan and the United Kingdom for refocusing the Security Council on this important issue. 

In 2011 New Zealand supported the group of countries from the South Pacific and elsewhere who were calling on the Security Council to recognise the security implications of climate change. The fact that the Council adopted PPRST 2011/15 was a welcome step. But it was only a very modest beginning. A more intensive examination is now required.

While the global climate has always been variable, human-induced climate change is occurring at an unprecedented rate. It is not only small island states in the Pacific, the Indian Ocean and the Caribbean that are threatened, but climate change is also having an impact on security in regions such as Africa where decreased rainfall is increasing competition for scarce water and food. It is now beyond argument that international security depends on our collective ability to manage climate impacts in a shorter timescale.  Globally, there is a tremendous body of scientific knowledge:  we have a good idea of what is going to happen and what we might be able to do about it. And the Security Council needs to be a part of the process of raising awareness.

We agree with the Secretary General's report that the best way to avoid climate change impacts is through comprehensive adaptation and global mitigation action.  In the UNFCCC, New Zealand is therefore committed to developing a comprehensive legally binding climate change agreement, whose design ensures the participation of all major emitters and an ambitious outcome.  A rules-based system with bounded flexibility - and differentiation on a continuum of commitments - will support both of these essential goals.

But climate change is an issue that must also be addressed across most of the international agenda. While it is not the Security Council’s role to be the author of a new rules-based system, it can and should add its weight to the case for an effective global response.  

Moreover the Council must step up its efforts for preventive diplomacy and conflict avoidance.  Internationally, and especially here in the United Nations, we already have mechanisms that address the kind of security challenges posed by climate change, whether competition for scarce resources including land and water, food security or disaster response. Existing mechanisms, including the Security Council, must recognise the threat multiplier that is climate change.

Security threats can be most effectively mitigated where climate change is "mainstreamed" in sustainable development planning to build confident, resilient communities, who have choices about whether to relocate or remain.  At a national level, building adaptive capacity allows countries to better cope with climate-related events before they spiral into major security challenges.  Work under way in the UNFCCC to consider arrangements on loss and damage from the adverse effects of climate change in developing countries will be an important part of that.


In 2011 New Zealand had the privilege of chairing the Pacific Islands Forum - a regional body that represents some of the smallest and most vulnerable states on this planet.
We share the fundamental concern of Pacific Island countries, and other particularly vulnerable countries, about the impacts of climate change - including stresses on food, fresh water, and energy supplies, as well as an increase in extreme weather events.  And we share the concern that the impacts threaten the viability of some communities and raise questions about relocation. Pacific Islands Forum Leaders have recognised the desire to continue to live in their own countries, which is vital to retaining the Pacific's social and cultural identity.  It is time to think hard, and quickly, about how solutions to climate change can reflect the desire of people to continue to live in their own countries.

It was for these reasons New Zealand stood alongside our Pacific neighbours in co-sponsoring the UN General Assembly Resolution on Climate Change and its possible security implications in 2009 and New Zealand now in 2013 calls on the Security Council to take up this issue again this year.


Both climate change and the responses to it will have far-reaching impacts over the decades ahead.  We ask the Council to listen to the voices of those countries that face the most difficult transitions, and do all within its purview to ensure that the path to a climate-resilient future is stable and secure.


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Page last updated: Monday, 04 March 2013 13:07 NZDT