UN chief warns climate chaos and food crises threaten global peace: 'Empty bellies fuel unrest' | World News - Hindustan Times

UN chief warns climate chaos and food crises threaten global peace: 'Empty bellies fuel unrest'

AP |
Feb 15, 2024 07:06 AM IST

UN chief warns climate chaos and food crises threaten global peace: 'Empty bellies fuel unrest'

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The United Nations chief warned Tuesday that climate chaos and food crises are increasing threats to global peace, telling a high-level U.N. meeting that climate disasters imperil food production and “empty bellies fuel unrest.”

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Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged the U.N. Security Council to address the impact of food shortages and rising temperatures on international peace and security — a view echoed by many countries but not Russia.

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“Climate and conflict are two leading drivers of (our) global food crisis,” the secretary-general 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 imperiling food production the world over,” he said.

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

In war-torn 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 that climate change is contributing to food insecurity and to conflict.

He said one in 10 people on the planet today 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 spiraling out of control,” Stiell said.

The executive secretary of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change said the Security Council “must acknowledge more can be done rather than hoping the problem will go away — which it won’t.”

The U.N.’s most powerful body should be requesting regular updates on climate security risks, he said.

Beth Bechdol, deputy director of the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, said scientific evidence is clear: “Climate change is compromising food security, and its impacts are a growing threat to international peace and security.”

She reiterated a longtime FAO warning: “There is no food security without peace, and no peace without food security.”

Bechdol said 258 million people in 58 countries are facing high levels of food insecurity and over two-thirds of them — 174 million people — are at high hunger levels because of climate and conflict.

“While there may not be a direct causality between the two, there is clear evidence that climate change increases risks and drivers of conflict and instability, such as disputes over land and water,” Bechdol said. “And conflict contributes to climate change vulnerability, especially for people who are forced to leave their homes and migrate.”

As an example of the complex relationship between climate change and conflict, she pointed to West and Central Africa herders who had peacefully crossed borders with their livestock in search of water and pasture for years. But climate change, environmental and security pressures have led to increased tensions and competition between herders and farmers for scarce resources including water and land, she said.

Bechdol stressed that climate change and conflict affect not only livestock but crop production, fishing and forestry “which are intimately and inextricably linked to climate change.”

She urged the U.N. and others to focus on agriculture “as a key solution to the growing threats from climate change, conflict and their impacts on food security.”

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,” 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 U.N. Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia, whose country holds veto power in the Security Council, reiterated Moscow’s longstanding 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 — and therefore these issues should be discussed in other specialized U.N. bodies.

Instead, Nebenzia 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.

He said “they continue to siphon resources” from former colonies and take miliary action “against problematic sovereign countries to destroy their statehood” pointing to former Yugoslavia, Libya, Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria.

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

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