The Marshall Islands in the northern Pacific Ocean and other low-lying island nations have appealed to the UN Security Council to recognise climate change as an international security threat that jeopardises their very survival.
Tony deBrum, a minister and assistant to the Marshall Islands president, says the island nations are facing opposition from Security Council permanent members Russia and China and a group of more than 130 mainly developing nations, which argue that the UN’s most powerful body is the wrong place to address climate change.
DeBrum told reporters on Friday after a closed Security Council meeting on the “Security Dimensions of Climate Change,” organised by Britain and Pakistan, that he hopes more council members will be convinced that “this is a security issue and not just an economic-political-social issue.”
The low-lying islands, which are already being inundated with sea water, want the council to bring its “political weight” to the issue and help their countries survive, for example, by harnessing new technologies and ensuring alternative energy supplies, he said.
DeBrum said it was “ironic, bizarre perhaps” that 35 years after he went before the Security Council to seek the independence of the Marshall Islands he was back again “to appeal for the survival of my country.”
He said climate change has already taken a toll on the Marshall Islands. Wells have filled with salt water, making drinking water scarce and in turn affecting food production. One small island in a lagoon is now under water, and coastlines are being eroded.
The impact of climate change is also causing migration to other islands, as well as to Australia and the United States, he said.
In an interview Friday with The Associated Press, Rachel Kyte, the World Bank’s vice-president for sustainable development, said that since the council’s last discussion of climate change “the sense of immediacy and urgency has increased.”
“The question is: Do you want to keep on catalogueuing all of the terrible things that are going to happen if we continue on a business as usual track, or are we actually going to start doing anything about it?” she said.