On the eve of the first U.N. Security Council debate on global warming, British Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett warned U.S. businesses to invest in carbon-free technology or lose out to Europeans.
UNITED NATIONS -- On the eve of the first U.N. Security Council debate on global warming, British Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett warned U.S. businesses to invest in carbon-free technology or lose out to Europeans.
"Clean-tech is going to be a massive market" and the largest economic opportunity of the century, Beckett said in a speech Monday to the BritishAmerican Business Inc. group in New York.
"Those who move into that market first -- first to design, first to patent, first to set the technology standard, first to sell, first to invest, first to build a brand -- have an unparalleled chance to make money," Beckett said.
Calling the European Union the biggest single market on the planet, Beckett said the EU aimed to become the "first competitive, low-carbon, energy secure economy in the world."
"We are doing it because we believe that it is in our core economic interest: it represents a political consensus that Europe can only and will only compete successfully in the global economy if we increase our energy security and if we lead the global transition to a low-carbon economy."
Beckett, whose country holds the current Security Council presidency, chairs a meeting Tuesday that Britain called to convince reluctant members that climate changes poses a threat to international security.
"The implications of climate change for our security are more fundamental and more comprehensive than any single conflict," she said.
"The resources available to us are already stretched and they're under immense and growing strain. An unstable climate threatens to exacerbate all of these existing tensions," Beckett told the business group in a preview of her argument to the Security Council.
But the issue remains contentious for many governments, including the Bush administration, which has fought mandatory caps on greenhouse gases emissions that spur climate change.
Ministers from several nations are expected to participate in the U.N. debate, including the Maldives, one of 37 small island states that fear they may disappear under rising oceans as the Earth warms up.
But other members, including Russia, China and many developing nations, question whether the issue belongs in the Security Council, which deals only with threats to international peace and security. The believe the council is increasingly encroaching on the work of other U.N. bodies.
"We are lukewarm because of where it is discussed," Russia's U.N. ambassador, Vitaly Churkin, said. "The Security Council is not the right place for the debate. We didn't take a vote but there was not much enthusiasm."
But Beckett argued that in poor nations, where climate change has the the biggest impact, the loss of basic needs increases the chances of conflict, such as the war in Darfur which began in Sudan's arid region because of a struggle over disappearing resources.
"Make it more difficult for them to secure the energy they need to power their homes and their businesses -- in any or all of these instances they might decide to go out and take what they need for themselves," Beckett said.