UN Security Council – Open Debate on the Impact of Climate Change

July 20, 2011

United Nations Security Council, Open Debate on the “Maintenance of International Peace and Security: the Impact of Climate Change”

Roma and her Interns attending the Security Council debate on July 20, 2011

The objective for the United Nations Security Council’s open debate on the subject of “Maintenance and international peace and security: the impact of climate change” on July 20, 2011 was addressed in a letter written by the current President of the Security Council and Permanent Representative of Germany, Peter Wittig. In his communication to the Secretary-General, Mr. Wittig said the debate would include the issues of rising sea levels and the reduction of food production as they are linked to climate change and the resulting effects on peace and security. Also included in this regard would be how the United Nations and other agencies can work to prevent conflict and build peace. Although the representatives discussed some of these topics, there was no consensus as to whether or not climate change is an appropriate subject for the Security Council.

Rather, many representatives felt that this issue should be confined to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development (UNCSD.)

The meeting began with an address by the UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon saying that, “Sustainable development is the defining issue of our time.” He was then followed by the Executive Director of United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), Achim Steiner, who gave an in-depth analysis on climate change. Mr. Steiner explained that the “Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) remains, for the international community, the first point of reference in terms of determining what science can tell us today and what science can not yet tell us.” As of now, the IPCC tells us that on average, the planet’s warming is increasing by .3 degrees per decade, nearly twice the temperature increase seen over the last 100 years. As a result of this warming, sea levels are bound to rise 1 meter by the end of the century, which will undoubtedly cause conflict and displacement, especially for the Small Island States.

Although many representatives, such as the United States, expressed their concern with climate change, countries such as China and Russia believed that this topic should only be dealt with in terms of sustainable development and not security. Climate change, however; is and has been threatening every aspect of our lives from food security to resource management and as the United Kingdom stated, a threat multiplier.

As many countries during the debate continued to agree that climate change is an important issue, the President of Nauru, Marcus Stephen, representing fourteen Small Island Developing States (SIDS), made a dramatic call for action, imploring that these states are at risk of disappearing or losing significant territory to rising sea levels. Carbon dioxide has caused unavoidable impacts affecting food security, water security and public safety.  In order to begin protection of the small island states, President Stephen suggested that the Security Council and other organizations, such as the UNFCCC, must analyze the projected security impacts and learn how to respond to them. In addition, he reiterated the suggestion that “the Council should start by requesting the immediate appointment of a special representative on climate and security. This individual’s primary responsibility should be to analyze projected security impacts of climate change so that the Council and all Member States can understand what lies ahead.”

In addition, President Marcus insisted that “the Council should also request an assessment of the capacity of the United Nations system to respond to these impacts, so that vulnerable countries can be assured that it is up to the task.”

Even though this debate concluded with no consensus, the Security Council understands the importance of following climate change as the possible adverse effects may in the long run aggravate certain existing threats to international peace and security.

 

 

Renewable Energy in the Green Economy, UN New York

Informal Workshop on Renewable Energy in the Context of the Green Economy

Tuesday 28 June 2011

The Permanent Missions of the Republic of Korea and Denmark to the United Nations hosted an informal workshop on Renewable Energy in the context of the Green Economy with presentations of the private sector. The workshop served as a platform for discussion of how implementation of renewable energy technologies can contribute to the transition to a new era of sustainable energy and development. The workshop generated recognition that renewable energy can be a cost-effective, feasible policy alternative in the transition to a new era of the green economy.

 Presentations

 Solar: Mr. James Brown, Senior Vice President of Project Finance, First Solar

  • Mission: To create enduring value by enabling a world powered by clean, affordable solar electricity
  • Solar energy has minimal carbon footprint compared to coal, oil and gas
  • First Solar is the lowest cost photovoltaic manufacturer in the world
  • Solar panels produced have high energy yield in both optimal and shaded conditions
  • Production capacity for solar technologies growing at rapid rates, in part because of the construction of new solar power plants.
  • Sales are expanding from Europe and US to India, Australia, and possibly Mideast, South Africa and Southeast Asia in 2012 and on
  • Benefits and positive externalities of solar energy production
    • Carbon footprint > Fraction of convention thermal technologies like coal
    • Job creation à Development, construction, maintenance
    • Skills development > Construction and maintenance knowledge – broadly applicable
    • Speed of installation > Limited time from concept to energy delivery
    • Energy security > Locally produced clean energy is an abundant resource
    • Energy payback > Generating energy with short time investment return by using photovoltaics
    • Water usage > Minimal water use during construction and for ongoing requirements
    • Fully pre-funded module recycling program

 Wind: Mr. Henrik Breun, Director of Government Relations, Vestas

  • Vestas has installed over 43,000 turbines in 65 countries across 5 continents, saving the planet from over 40 million tons of CO2 yearly
  • In reality, start-up cost of wind and new coal production are equal
    • Wind continues to be the lowest life cycle greenhouse gas emissions energy source, no water + no carbon power is produced
    • A Vestas turbine alone is carbon neutral after only seven months of energy production; during its lifetime it saves the atmosphere from 2220,000 tons of CO2
    • Green Jobs: Being more labor and less fuel-intensive, one GWh of wind power production leads to higher employment than conventional forms of energy.
    • Funding is not only essential but public policy is also necessary to stimulate private sector investments

Biomass: Ms. Leticia Phillips, Representative – North America, UNICA

  • UNICA: Brazilian Sugarcane Industry Association
    • Leading sugarcane industry association, representing over 120 producers and mills and responsible for 60% of all ethanol and sugar production in Brazil
      • Sugar (35 million tons) > Ethanol (7 billion Gallons) > Electricity (16,000 GWh)
      • Sugarcane is Brazil’s #1 source of renewable energy, #2 behind petroleum
      • 600 million tons of CO2 emissions avoided thanks to use of ethanol since 1975
      • Sugarcane is not only a Brazil story
        • Today 100 countries could supply biofuels to 200 nations, replacing the current 20 oil producers provide fossil fuels.
        • Social sustainability: government, industry, and workers unions must unite to create new frameworks of sustainable development

Energy storage: Mr. Robert H. Lee, Senior Vice President, SK Innovation

  • Shaping the Energy Future through Energy Storage Systems
    • 19th Century > Coal era, 20th Century > Oil era, 21st century > The Multiple Energy era
    • Type of energy storage
      • Chemical energy and Physical energy
        • Chemical: Electrochemical (rechargeable battery + flow battery) and material (hydrogen)
        • Physical: Electromagnetic (ultra-capacitor), kinetic (flywheels), potential (pumped hydro), thermodynamic (compressed air)
        • Proliferation of renewable energy and smart grid will stimulate demand for energy storage systems
        • Electric vehicles
          • Market is expanding faster than expected
          • By 2018, prediction of 9 million electric vehicles produced per year
          • Types:
            • Hybrid: Motor support, fuel tank, power source: similar to traditional car model construction
            • Plug-in: Power source and electric generator used
            • Electric vehicle: Battery and motor
            • Moving forward: Private sector must make long-term commitment and really drive towards technology breakthroughs, and the public sector has to bridge the cost of research and investment through financial support (subsidies, investment credits, and grants/direct investment

Policies for spreading Renewable Energy: Dr. Nakicenovic (IIASA, International Institute for Applies Systems Analysis)

  • Endorses the 2030 Energy Goals of UN Secretary General
    • Universal Access to Modern Energy
    • Reduction of Energy Intensity by 40%
    • Increase of Renewable Share to 30%
    • Transformation of Energy Systems
      • Time for Action: institutions, policies, incentives, rules, regulations & behavior
      • Co-benefits: security, reduced pollution, improved health and environmental protection
      • Long-term: within planetary boundaries, goal of stabilizing temperature increase to 2°C can be achieved