"This is a groundbreaking day in the history of the Security Council, the first time ever that we will debate climate change as a matter of international peace and security," Margaret Beckett said.
"There are few greater potential threats to our economies too ... but also to peace and security itself."
The two main groups representing developing countries - the Non-Aligned Movement and the Group of 77 - wrote separate letters accusing the Security Council of "ever-increasing encroachment" on the role and responsibility of other UN organs.
Climate change and energy are issues for the General Assembly, where all 192 UN member states are represented, and the Economic and Social Council, not the Security Council, the two groups, which include China, said.
Vitaly Churkin, Russia's ambassador to the UN, also said the climate change issue did not belong in the Security Council.
|Ban added that floods and droughts were polarising societies and |
weakening the ability of countries to resolve conflicts peacefully [AFP]
Beckett, who spent five years as Britain's negotiator on climate change, said she understood the reservations and was not out to "undermine the important work that those bodies do".
"But this is an issue that threatens the peace and security of the whole planet and the Security Council has to be the right place to debate it."
Fifty-five countries spoke at the daylong meeting but the council did not adopt any statement or resolution.
On Monday, Beckett noted, some US retired admirals and generals said in a new report that climate change is a "threat multiplier for instability".
She said Yoweri Museveni, the president of Uganda, whose economy depends on hydropower from a reservoir that is already depleted by drought, has called climate change "an act of aggression by the rich against the poor".
Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary-general, told the council that projected climate changes could not only have serious environmental, social and economic implications but affect peace and security as well.
He outlined several "alarming, though not alarmist" scenarios, including limited or threatened access to energy increasing the risk of conflict, a scarcity of food and water transforming peaceful competition into violence, and floods and droughts polarising societies and weakening the ability of countries to resolve conflicts peacefully.
The world must come together - including civil society and the private sector - to prevent these scenarios from becoming reality, he said.