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Climate Security in the Indo-Pacific: Strategic Implications for Defence and Foreign Affairs
02 Nov 2022

On 2 November 2022, the Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR) Programme, Non-Traditional Security (NTS) Centre, organised the RSIS Roundtable on “Climate Security in the Indo-Pacific: Strategic Implications for Defence and Foreign Affairs”. Held at the Orchard Hotel, this closed-door, in-person roundtable brought together local and overseas experts.

Professor Mely Caballero-Anthony, Head of the NTS Centre, delivered the opening remarks. She observed that the Indo-Pacific is uniquely exposed to both the geophysical effects of climate change and other fragility risks such as adaptation capacity and governance. The first speaker, Dr Maria Ortuoste from California State University, discussed climate security in the context of the South China Sea disputes. Dr Philips J Vermonte from the Indonesian International Islamic University (UIII), who was the discussant for this panel, pointed out the importance of finding ways to combat the trust deficit between states involved in the disputes.

The second panel consisted of Professor Tokuchi Hideshi from the Research Institute for Peace and Security in Japan, as well as Dr Sekiyama Takashi from Kyoto University. They presented their papers on the geopolitical implications of climate change on Japan’s security. Dr Pichamon Yeophantong from Deakin University, Australian War College, served as discussant of the papers. Points of discussion included the hesitance of the Japanese government to securitise climate change and the extent to which Japan itself contributes to climate change as well as its mitigation efforts.

The next panel featured Ms Cheryl Durrant from the University of New South Wales, who presented her paper on the importance of systems thinking in mitigating and adapting to climate change. Dr Dhanasree Jayaram from the Manipal Academy of Higher Education then delivered her paper on climate security in the context of the Indian military. Rounding up this segment was Dr Florian Krampe from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, who touched on the need to expand the systems thinking framework into practical steps which can be used by policymakers. He also discussed how the posting of India’s UN peacekeeping forces to countries affected by climate change had impacted India’s climate policy.

The final panel paper presenters were Prof Mely Caballero-Anthony, who unpacked the concept of climate security in Asia; and Dr Alistair D. B. Cook from the NTS Centre, who spoke about climate security in the broader Indo-Pacific security architecture. As discussant, Professor Benjamin William Cashore from the National University of Singapore, pointed out the consideration that governments cannot solve all problems affecting a state. Instead, their attempts to do so would likely result in the “whack-a-mole” effect, where new problems would “pop up” when one problem is solved, as seen in the development-versus-environment debate.

Throughout the event, the experts evaluated the role of climate change as a threat multiplier, further contributing to the regional conversation on climate security.

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