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Climate: A Security Threat?
China objects to global warming talk at U.N. Security Council
Alan Mota (al0021)     Print Article 
Published 2007-04-19 03:30 (KST)   
On the eve of a much debated and unprecedented debate on global warming to be held by the U.N. Security Council -- a forum created to debate security threats and conflicts--, the council faces objection form one of its main members, one of the five with veto power: China. In a controversial decision, Beijing said that the Security Council -- the most powerful body within the U.N. -- has no competency to discuss a climate issue, therefore it would be inappropriate to hold the meeting. The decision went completely against the initiative started by the U.K. and a face-off between Britain and China took place in trying to justify the meeting.

"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," said Margaret Beckett, the British foreign secretary ahead of the meeting.

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On the other hand, the deputy ambassador for China, Liu Zhenmin, said, "The developing countries believe that the Security Council has neither the professional competence in handling climate change -- nor is it the right decision-making place for extensive participation leading up to widely acceptable proposals." This opinion doesn't only represent the Chinese view. Zhenmin's message had the support of Indonesian, Russian and South African representatives, and Pakistan issued a message, on behalf of 130 countries supporting China on the matter.

With such heated discussions even before the debate begins, it becomes evident that there's much more to this debate than just a discussion on global warming. The issue, which is now more political than ever, has been worrying more and more people throughout the world, and it's bound to become increasingly influential in future elections in most countries as well as within the international political scene. Countries that don't respect the environment will be seen -- and treated, perhaps -- as villains in the international community, and their leaders will make a terrible impression with their people. With so much in stake, such debate is indeed, as the U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon said, "groundbreaking," and the controversy around the issue involves 3 main views:

First, Great Britain's. The current administration has been facing several problems that have been bringing down its popularity, the biggest one of them being Iraq. Tony Blair has been one of the most unpopular prime ministers in Britain recently, and since he announced that he intends to step down of the office soon, the Labour Party and its supporters have been working around the clock to bring its morale back up among the British people, looking at the next elections. And one of the ways Blair's administration found to do this is by tackling climate change. Recently, Britain has been taking many initiatives in the international community to discuss and fight global warming, and the issue have been making more appearances in Blair's speeches.

Holding an meeting such as this one is only one more step in settling Britain as a leader in the global warming struggle. But at the same time it is more than just that, for taking down 3 of Blair's worries in one setting: Beside making the Labour Party look good to the British, as was said before, it also gives the U.K. a chance to rise again to a position of political leadership worldwide -- something it haven't been in a while --, on an issue that is likely to become the main topic of political discussion in the planet in the near future and that the U.S. can't have a bigger say than Britain does. Speaking of the U.S., this is also a chance for Blair to diverge from -- if not go directly against -- the Americans, responding to the many British that see current administration as American's little pet on international policy. It can be said that global warming is the only issue where Britain has the chance of actually coming out on top nowadays.

Second, China's. China is already among the biggest polluters in the planet, and with its economy growing at an impressive rate, it's expected to be on the top of the list soon -- estimates say that China will be the biggest CO2 emitter in the world by 2009. The thing is that China is not perceived as such a environmental villain, because all eyes are turned to the U.S. and its current administration, that seems to take pride in pillaging the planet.

China is a signatory of the Kyoto treaty -- even though it's considered a developing country and therefore doesn't have to cut down on its pollution until 2012 -- and it has been making the headlines much more for its growth that amazes the world and takes hundreds of millions out of poverty. They're known for being pollutant, but there's not much pressure from the rest of the world, and China intends to keep it this way.

For this very reason, the Chinese would have no interest at all in this debate. Especially because it's such a highly media-covered and politically important debate, and in front of all this audience is where the size of the Chinese threat to Earth might be unveiled. Many developed countries are already pressuring China, along with other developing nations such as India and Brazil, to start controlling their emissions and not hide among the "underdeveloped" group to justify its pollution. And that's one of the reasons the Chinese didn't say the theme of the debate is inappropriate, but that the place where the discussion would take place is. By pushing it to a less important and less covered venue, the Chinese make sure that they stay off the center of attentions when it comes to global warming, leaving the U.S. to take all the hits while they keep growing free of worries.

Third, the view of developing countries. Even though they're not exactly at the center of the discussion, their take on the issue is still important. And when you have over a 130 countries supporting a certain issue, you should listen to them. The reason for the Pakistan-led complaint on the debate is that there are more democratic places to discuss the problem, such as the U.N. General Assembly, and the developing countries, which happen to form the overwhelming majority of the planet's population, would like to have a chance to give their 2 cents on global warming, too.

And they do have reason to worry about this, because the developed countries, although much more industrialized -- and therefore likely to be more pollutant --, are not pleased that they have to cut down on their emissions and sometimes tame their industrialization while poor countries do whatever they like, and even sell part of their pollution quotas to the rich.

Basically, the poor countries are afraid that this rich country-led debate might end up putting part of the blame on them and work some regulation that would ultimately harm their development. If the discussion takes place on a broader spectrum, they will have a voice and be able to work for their interests as well.

In the end, though, one must consider: Is the debate really that important or just a political stunt? As the British stated themselves, this is a "debate," and debates, in the political community, are known for not getting too much done -- agreements and protocols sound better. Whether this takes place at the Security Council or somewhere else, it's unlikely that something more than a few meant-for-the-media guidelines will come up. There's a reasonable chance that it will be more of a stage for countries to try and blame each other and come up as heroes.

With this in mind, it's worth wondering whether the Security Council would actually be the right place for global warming to be discussed, because this discussion runs the risk of becoming a sort of meaningless landmark, something the world leaders can refer to when asked what they've been doing about global warming, but that in reality didn't bring anything new to the table. This "debate" might do more harm than good.
©2007 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter Alan Mota

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