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Islands want UN to see climate as security threat

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© In this April 25, 2007 file photo, a woman gathers shellfish on an eroded beach on Majuro Atoll in the Marshall Islands. © In this April 25, 2007 file photo, a woman gathers shellfish on an eroded beach on Majuro Atoll in the Marshall Islands.

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The Marshall Islands and other low-lying island nations appealed to the U.N. Security Council to recognize climate change as an international security threat that jeopardizes their very survival.

Tony deBrum, a minister and assistant to the Marshall Islands president, said Friday 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 U.N.'s most powerful body is the wrong place to address climate change.

DeBrum told reporters after a closed Security Council meeting on the "Security Dimensions of Climate Change," organized 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 cataloguing 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

Kyte said she explained to the council on Friday that "it is possible to stop the worst from happening but it will require real, concerted policy action globally at every country level."

"Economically we know what to do, but politically it's going to take leadership," she said. "And every day we don't act we make the job more difficult for ourselves."

"What the Security Council has to do is understand that everything has to be seen through this lens. Climate change is changing the future scenarios for every country," Kyte said. "It's framing decisions on security, economic security, food security."

Germany's Deputy U.N. Ambassador Miguel Berger recalled that in July 2011, at his country's initiative, the Security Council discussed the security implications of climate change at a formal meeting and adopted a presidential statement expressing the council's concern about the possible adverse effects of climate change on international peace and security.

Berger told the council that Germany was happy to see the council taking up the issue again and stressed that all U.N. entities, including the Security Council, need to intensify their efforts to combat climate change and its security implications. He called for these implications to be included in Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's reports to the council on climate change.

"Let us not forget: Climate change and its security implications will shape tomorrow's world in a way that is almost impossible to overestimate," Wittig said. "We should also consider whether a U.N. special envoy on climate and security could help us to tackle the foreign and security policy implications of climate change."

Pakistan's U.N. Ambassador Masood Khan said the meeting would galvanize actions in all U.N. forums to combat climate change.

"Our response should not be anchored only in politics; it should also be guided by science and technology," Khan said. "Our response should not just counter immediate threats; it should forewarn and prepare us for the impending threats that impinge on our security."

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.

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