Statement by Ambassador Hjálmar W. Hannesson
Permanent Representative of Iceland to the United Nations
Open Debate in the Security Council
Energy, Security and Climate
Thank you Mr. President for organizing this important and relevant open debate on energy, security and climate. I thank you also for your concept paper and I will try to focus on the issues raised in the questions for discussion.
The fact that development and the fight against poverty is an important aspect of security has been recognized globally. It is clear to all, that “there will be no security without development and there will be no development without security”.
Increasingly we have become aware of the seriousness of climate change to the security and well-being of mankind. The latest evidence was presented in the report "Climate Change 2007: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability," released in Brussels earlier this month by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). From this report it is clear that climate change will hit the poorest hardest; we can expect more extreme weather events, glaciers will melt and the sea level will rise. There will be more severe droughts, and floods and desertification will increase. We have clear evidence of climate change in my own country, where glaciers in the highlands are shrinking fast.
Prior to taking up my post here in New York I was Ambassador to Canada and had the good fortune to travel widely in Canada’s high north. The Inuits in Nunavut complained about the melting of the ice in places where they used to travel. Now there is open water there and they have to go great distances on land instead of being able to take the direct routes on ice across fjords. One does not need to be posted a long time here at the UN before it is made abundantly clear that for a number of member states, especially small island states, climate change with rising sea levels is the greatest threat to their security.
Mr. President, Iceland agrees with your analysis that climate change is a serious security issue. In the longer run, increased migration and diminishing natural resources, especially food and freshwater, will bring increased risks of border disputes and regional, national and ethnic power struggles. In the shorter run, the highest risks are related to access to secure supplies of energy.
If climate change is to be effectively slowed and eventually halted, and if its effects, particularly on developing countries, are to be mitigated, then wide-ranging and longterm international cooperation is the only course open. But we are not fully succeeding through our international cooperation. Perhaps it is because we have been treating climate change principally as an environmental issue. At best we recognise its socio-economic implications. But with this open debate in the Security Council, climate change is finally being recognised for what it is: Climate change is a significant security issue that requires the highest attention of world leaders.
I would like to thank Secretary General Ban Ki-moon for giving this issue the prominence it deserves on his list of priorities. We share the view that it is not too late to take concrete action to avoid the worst consequences. The next 20 years are crucial. If we act quickly and effectively to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, we will have taken significant steps towards saving millions from suffering and from conflict in the future.
The scale of the problem is such that a solution will need the commitment of every member state. Iceland as a party to the Kyoto Protocol, is fully committed to doing its part. Iceland’s view is that we need to negotiate further commitments for the years beyond 2012. Iceland has recently adopted a new climate change strategy, with a vision to reduce net greenhouse gas emissions by 50-75% by 2050. This vision will only be realized by dedicated domestic action in all major sectors and in the context of a comprehensive international agreement.
Mitigation measures should, however, not hinder development, for which increased energy consumption is crucial. The focus must be on alternative energy resources. Renewable energy resources have an important role to play. Within the lifetime of one generation Iceland has moved from being largely dependent on coal and oil to fulfilling 70% of our total energy needs from renewable resources, and a remarkable 100% of our electricity production is based on clean and sustainable energy. We can do even more and we are exploring new technologies, including the use of hydrogen in transportation, to increase still further the share of renewable energy in our energy profile.
Many developing countries rely heavily on imported fossil fuels today. By increasing use of renewable energy developing countries will be in a position to use their own resources, which will provide secure access to energy. We strongly believe that our experience with alternative energy sources is transferable. Indeed, hundreds of experts from developing countries in all continents have graduated from the United Nations Geothermal Training Programme, which was established in Iceland three decades ago, and most of them are now playing leading roles in the exploitation of geothermal resources in their home countries. Iceland has built up a leading position in the harnessing of geothermal energy and our energy companies are now involved in various projects in Europe, Asia, the United States and other parts of the world.
There are many possibilities to be developed to ensure sustainable energy supply. We will continue through our development co-operation strategy to focus on sustainable development and on the sustainable utilisation of natural resources, including strengthening of the United Nations University Geothermal Training Programme by enabling the programmes to admit more students and by setting up training courses in developing countries. We have also strengthened collaboration with international institutions, including FAO and the World Bank, in the field of renewable energy and increased emphasis on development cooperation with small island developing states.
Mr. President, we thank you again for your initiative in holding this timely open debate exploring the relationship between energy, security and climate in the Security Council.