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Defence ‘acutely aware’ of risks posed by climate change: ADF chief

Posted By on February 25, 2022 @ 06:00

Defence has a key role to play supporting the government’s climate and disaster resilience agenda by integrating climate risk into the planning and conduct of its activities and operations, says Australian Defence Force chief Angus Campbell.

In a video statement at the launch of a new ASPI publication, The geopolitics of climate and security in the Indo-Pacific, Campbell described as ‘outstanding’ the work of ASPI’s Climate and Security Policy Centre led by Robert Glasser and said it performed an essential role in driving discussion of the long-term strategic consequences of climate change.

‘Those of us in Defence are acutely aware of the significant impact climate risks will have on the future of our region,’ he said. ‘Both the 2016 defence white paper and the 2020 defence strategic update identify that climate risk will affect our operating environment.’

The strategic update stated that threats to human security such as pandemics and growing water and food scarcity were likely to result in greater political instability and friction within and between countries, and reshape Australia’s security environment.

These threats would be compounded by population growth and extreme weather events in which climate change played a part, Campbell said.

The update said that while Defence had made substantial progress in building a more potent, capable and agile defence force, adjustments to the plans in the white paper were required, including measures to enhance ADF support to civil authorities in response to national crises and natural disasters such as pandemics, bushfires, floods and cyclones.

The strategic update noted that disaster response and resilience measures demanded a higher priority in defence planning, Campbell said. The ADF was working hard on such a response. Many climate risks were most consequential and urgent in the Pacific region. The ADF’s support to the region was guided by the Framework for Pacific Regionalism and the Boe Declaration on Regional Security with its values and vision of peace, harmony, security, social inclusion and prosperity, so that all Pacific people could lead free, healthy and productive lives, he said.

The declaration stated that climate change remained the single greatest threat to the livelihoods, security and wellbeing of the peoples of the Pacific. It recognised an increasingly complex regional security environment driven by multifaceted security challenges and affirmed the peoples’ stewardship of the Blue Pacific and the need to strengthen and enhance capacity to pursue collective security interests in the region.

‘Defence stands ready to support the Pacific in these aspirations,’ Campbell said. Australia remained a principle regional partner supporting nations responding to disasters, especially in the Southwest Pacific. Similarly, as a Center for Strategic and International Studies report identified, Southeast Asia would be one of the regions most vulnerable to climate change. A temperature increase of 1.5°C would cause rising seas, dangerous flooding and changing rainfall patterns, leading to violent typhoons and droughts.

These climate risks posed a threat to food security, hobbled economic growth, prompted political instability and catalysed pandemics. ‘As the contributors to this ASPI publication make clear, the impacts of climate risks on the geopolitics and security of the Indo-Pacific are complex, but undeniable,’ Campbell said. ‘They alter the context in which regional actors make decisions and influence the strategies they pursue to achieve their goals.’

These factors contributed to state fragility and the risk of strategic miscalculation, he warned. Defence considered climate and disaster resilience risk in its strategic guidance and planning for structure, preparedness and mobilisation, supply chain logistics, estate and infrastructure plans, joint force operations, technological innovations, and capability development.

Paying his respects to Indigenous Australians, Campbell noted: ‘Like all of us, … our Indigenous peoples are deeply invested in the future of this great continent and the planetary systems that support its continuing sustainability.’

The challenges were significant, as the new report highlighted, he said. ‘Sometimes it takes determination not to be disheartened by the scope and scale of the challenges our region faces, particularly when it comes to climate risks, especially as we manage other overlapping short-term risks and crises on a daily basis,’ he said.

‘But I am hopeful. Each challenge presents an opportunity for cooperation for the common good, helping us to overcome entrenched suspicions or rivalries through collective action. It may be in small ways at first, but enough small moments of cooperation can build into greater things. They form the foundation for a better future and a stronger community within the Indo-Pacific.’

Campbell said he was not disheartened by the challenges or the work ahead. ‘I hope you are not either. The Climate and Security Policy Centre has done an excellent job in outlining the challenges we face within the region, but they’ve also pointed the way forward and offered potential solutions or areas for cooperation to address these challenges.

‘It represents yet another step forward. Congratulations on the publication of The geopolitics of climate and security in the Indo-Pacific. It should be closely read, and I hope it will inspire many to take heart and to take action.’

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URL to article: https://www.aspistrategist.org.au/defence-acutely-aware-of-risks-posed-by-climate-change-adf-chief/

[1] The geopolitics of climate and security in the Indo-Pacific: https://www.aspi.org.au/report/geopolitics-climate-and-security-indo-pacific

[2] 2016 defence white paper: https://www.defence.gov.au/about/publications/2016-defence-white-paper

[3] 2020 defence strategic update: https://www.defence.gov.au/about/publications/2020-defence-strategic-update

[4] Framework for Pacific Regionalism: https://www.forumsec.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/Framework-for-Pacific-Regionalism.pdf

[5] Boe Declaration on Regional Security: https://www.forumsec.org/2018/09/05/boe-declaration-on-regional-security/

[6] report: https://www.csis.org/blogs/new-perspectives-asia/southeast-asias-coming-climate-crisis