UN chief warns climate chaos and food crises are threatening peace

14 February 2024, 10:24

UN Climate Food and Conflict
UN Climate Food and Conflict. Picture: PA

‘Empty bellies fuel unrest’ Antonio Guterres told the Security Council.

The United Nations chief has warned that climate chaos and food crises are increasing threats to global peace.

Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told the UN Security Council that climate disasters imperil food production and “empty bellies fuel unrest”.

He urged council members to address the impact of food shortages and rising temperatures on international peace and security.

“Climate and conflict are two leading drivers of (our) global food crisis,” he said. “Where wars rage, hunger reigns – whether due to displacement of people, destruction of agriculture, damage to infrastructure, or deliberate policies of denial.

“Meanwhile, climate chaos is imperilling food production the world over.”

Mr Guterres said the world is teeming with examples of “the devastating relationship between hunger and conflict”.

In Gaza, he said, no one has enough to eat and the tiny strip accounts for 80% of the 700,000 hungriest people in the world.

After more than a decade of war in Syria, he said, 13 million Syrians go to bed hungry every night.

And in Myanmar, prospects of ending hunger have gone into reverse because of conflict and instability, he said.

Simon Stiell, the United Nations climate chief, told the council climate change is contributing to food insecurity and to conflict.

He said one in 10 people on the planet already suffers from chronic hunger and if climate change accelerates, “it will become worse”.

“Rapid, sustained action to cut greenhouse gas emissions and to increase resilience is needed now to help stop both from spiralling out of control,” Mr Stiell said.

Guyana’s President Mohamed Irfaan Ali, whose country holds the council presidency this month and chaired the meeting, said the impact of climate change and food insecurity on international peace and security was chosen as the topic for the meeting because of the increasing links.

About 90 countries were expected to speak over two days.

“Conflict is the primary driver of acute food insecurity in Africa, and the same can be said about Haiti,” Mr Ali told the meeting, adding the war in Gaza is putting tons of carbon emissions into the atmosphere.

“The Security Council must take into account the consequential effects on food security and climate in addressing the issues of conflict and war,” the president said, stressing that “these issues are intricately linked to the rule of law, democracy and governance.”

But Russia’s UN ambassador Vassily Nebenzia, whose country holds veto power in the Security Council, reiterated Moscow’s long-standing position that there is no “direct link” between social and economic issues like climate and food supplies and the council’s mandate to ensure international peace and security.

He blamed former Western colonial powers and the United States as “the real root causes” of the problems facing developing countries in Africa and elsewhere today.

“Neo-colonialist practices are the real reason for socio-economic difficulties which the developing world is encountering,” the Russian ambassador said.

By Press Association

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