Written by Carbon Extra editor Deborah Nesbitt
In a step away from the defence department’s green paper, its white paper released yesterday (February 25) accepted climate change posed “major challenges”, at least for Australia’s immediate region (CE 30/10/15).
Climate change would “exacerbate the challenges of population growth and environmental degradation, and will contribute to food shortages and undermine economic development” in the region, it said.
But, apart from sea level rise and extreme weather events threats to Aust naval bases, the paper was silent on potential domestic climate security threats and any role defence may play in dealing with them.
Similarly, the paper failed to mention adaption measures the defence estate may take, such as more efficient and secure energy supplies or climate-adapted construction.
The paper “barely acknowledged climate change has security dimensions”, Centre for Policy Development (CPD) CEO Travers McLeod said.
Still, he welcomed the paper’s inclusion of climate change. “The most important thing this paper does is create an enabling environment for Aust’s defence and security community to take concerted action on climate change,” he told CE.
“They have not had that enabling environment because it was understood under [Prime Minister] Abbott [the white paper] would not mention climate change at all and officials felt they couldn’t be producing proposals that would take Aust’s climate security to the next level, to the level of our [US and UK] allies”.
Defence estate and regional focus on climate
One of six key drivers that would shape Aust’s security environment to 2035″ was “state fragility, including within our immediate neighbourhood, caused by uneven economic growth, crime, social, environmental and governance challenges and climate change”, the paper said.
“Our strategic weight, proximity and resources place high expectations on us to respond to instability or natural disasters, and climate change means we will be called on to do so more often,” it said.
Aust regional defence assistance should include defence co-operation, aid, including humanitarian and security assistance, policing and building regional organisations.
Beyond 2025, the defence estate would need to ensure it was “appropriately postured for future strategic requirements and the implications of climate change”, the paper said. That would involve new bases, wharves, airfields and training and weapons testing ranges. Some bases’ long-term future, such as Garden Island in Sydney Harbour, would need to be considered, it said.
Devise a climate security strategy ‘or it’s all talk’
The Federal Government has promised to finalise a two-year white paper implementation strategy within a month. McLeod said CPD would be advocating strongly for it to adopt recommendations it made in a June 2015 report (CE 19/06/15).
CPD advised the govt to appoint a climate change security advisory council to develop a climate security strategy involving environment, defence and foreign affairs dept officials.
“Unless they’ve got a climate security strategy that straddles those key depts of state then it will be all talk and no action,” he said.
(This story first ran in Carbon Extra on Friday 26 February 2016)
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