11-12 October 2007, Traders Hotel, Singapore
The S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University, Singapore, in collaboration with the Swiss Embassy in Singapore held an International Conference on Climate Change and Security. Held at the Traders Hotel, Singapore on 11-12 October 2007, the Conference on Climate Change and Security is one of the key major activities organized by the RSIS’ programme on Non-Traditional Security (NTS) in Asia.
The discussions at this policy forum served to highlight the complex challenges of climate change in Asia and their salience beyond the region. In the opening remarks, Ambassador Barry Desker, Dean of the RSIS, remarked that as with other non-traditional security issues, climate change has now dominated the security agenda of many states in the region. However, the global consensus on the grave security challenges posed by climate change, is not matched by a consensus on how best to address this problem. Ironically, whilst there is agreement on the need for a new global framework to observe the key principles put forward by the United Nations Framework on Climate Change, particularly on the reduction of carbon emissions—the contentions between the developed and the developing countries on how to proceed remain a serious obstacle in the global mission to mitigate the impact of climate change.
Thus, for Asia and Europe, there are at least three reasons why climate change must be placed on top of their security agenda. These are: the severe consequences of climate change, the need for concrete Asian action on mitigating its impact, and the emerging initiatives that are coming out from both regions in responding to the challenges of climate change.
H.E. Mr. Daniel Woker, Ambassador of Switzerland to Singapore, concurred with the points raised by Ambassador Desker. From a Swiss perspective, the security implications of climate change has been vividly illustrated by the melting glaciers on the Swiss Alps. It was therefore important that Asia and Europe find common grounds in addressing the security challenges of climate change.
The conference then proceeded with 2 opening addresses on the Global and Asian perspective of Climate Change. The former presentation was delivered by Dr Jose Romero from the Federal Office for the Environment (FOEN), Switzerland, who highlighted the need for the international community to increase what he calls “environmental intelligence” to address the global consequences of climate change. The Asian Perspective of Climate Change was delivered by Mr Terence Siew, Head of the Climate Change Unit at the National Environment Agency in Singapore. Siew argued that while climate change is a global problem that requires global solutions, it is nevertheless important to better understand the security implications of climate change on Asia’s growth and prosperity. He also noted the efforts and initiatives of the Singapore government in dealing with climate change.
Various panels followed covering various themes of climate change. The two panels on Climate Change and Security: Issues and Challenges covered a diverse range of aspects, in particular environment and sustainable development, human insecurities, the impacts on natural habitats and marine and coastal environments as well as the extent to which climate change is a cause of violent conflict and wars. Following panels on Energy Security, the politics of climate change amongst major powers and the way forward for the international community in the post 2012 Kyoto Protocol period, were equally engaging with discussion sessions leaving participants with much food for thought. Presenters provided great insight to the issues at hand and provided a series of recommendations, which would be compiled to be presented to policymakers at the upcoming UNFCCC meeting in Bali in early December 2007.
Assoc. Prof Mely Caballero Anthony (RSIS) then concluded the 1 ½ day event by expressing thanks to all present for their time and effort in making the Conference a success. She also noted that while there have been issues of how to grapple such a wide topic, the presence of the multi- disciplined speakers clearly suggests that it is not merely a task for governments to address. The small intimate setting was useful as this allowed participants to have candid discussion.
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