UN chief slams 'distressing' spending on arms over climate

AFP , Tuesday 13 Feb 2024

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres lamented Tuesday the emphasis placed by some governments on buying weapons at the cost of policies tackling global warming and hunger.

Climate change
Hausa-Fulani pastoralists on the move while grazing cattle on the outskirts of Sokoto, Nigeria. Climate change has led to land-use disputes in West and Central Africa and fueled violent conflicts between nomadic herders and sedentary farmers. AFP


"It is distressing to see governments spending heavily on arms, while starving budgets for food security, climate action, and broader sustainable development," Guterres told a Security Council meeting on the links between food, climate and conflict crises.

"We can break the deadly nexus of hunger, climate chaos, and conflict. And quell the threat they pose to international peace and security," he said, calling for the United Nations to act with policies addressing all three issues "together."

Without action, "the situation will deteriorate," he warned. "Conflicts are multiplying. The climate crisis is set to spiral, as emissions continue to rise. And acute food insecurity has been increasing year on year."

UN climate chief Simon Stiell emphasized the links between the three issues, telling the Council that combined they are "devastating."

"There is no national security without food security. And there will be no food security without enhanced action to stop climate change," he said.

"If heating continues, food production will decline across many countries. In others, little will grow at all. Food shortages, price spikes, and hunger are likely. Without climate action they are almost certain."

To illustrate the fatal link between global warming, agriculture and conflict, several speakers highlighted land-use disputes in West and Central Africa between nomadic herders, who sometimes move from country to country, and sedentary farmers.

"Climate change and environmental and security pressures have altered these migratory routes," warned Beth Bechdol, deputy director-general of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, citing countries such as Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger.

"This has led to a steady increase in tensions between farming and herding communities, often linked to growing competition for already scarce natural resources, such as water and land, or to damage incurred to crops in fields," she said.

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