On Nov. 20th, U.S. National Security Advisor Ambassador Susan Rice gave a speech to a crowd at Georgetown University on the future of U.S. policy in the Asia-Pacific region. Ambassador Rice noted that “Nowhere are the challenges and the opportunities we face so great as in the Asia Pacific region…” and that “rebalancing toward the Asia Pacific remains a cornerstone of the Obama Administration’s foreign policy.”
Amb. Rice identified four key objectives in the U.S. Asia-Pacific rebalance as “enhancing security, expanding prosperity, fostering democratic values, and advancing human dignity.” Amb. Rice also noted that transnational challenges, such as climate change, will cut across all of these objectives, and that we will need to take that into account when furthering our foreign policy and national security objectives in the region. This is consistent with points we made in an article last year: “A Marshall Plan to Combat Climate Change in the Asia-Pacific,” where we argued for modest investments in combating climate change in the region as a way of expanding and deepening alliances, and enhancing U.S. influence.
To give a sense of how cross-cutting climate change impacts are, we have highlighted quotes from the speech that have a climate dimension, either explicitly addressed by Amb. Rice, or not. We have organized these according to the four key objectives in the U.S. Asia Pacific rebalance, as outlined by Amb. Rice. The entire prepared remarks are here and you can watch the speech here.
- As we are seeing in the Philippines today, our military presence in the region is vital, not only to deter threats and defend allies, but also to provide speedy humanitarian assistance and unmatched disaster response.
- Another growing threat to regional peace and security—and to U.S. interests—is the rise of maritime disputes in the East China Sea and South China Sea.
- Indeed, many of Asia’s most vexing security challenges are transnational security threats that transcend borders like climate change, piracy, infectious disease, transnational crime, cyber-theft, and the modern-day slavery of human trafficking. No one nation can meet these challenges alone.
- India has much to offer Asia and the world. Together, our nations launched a new clean energy partnership, mobilizing billions of dollars in public and private investment for solar, wind, and alternative energy projects in India.
- As the world’s two largest energy consumers, energy producers, and greenhouse gas emitters, the U.S. and China also have a duty to lead together to tackle climate change and spur the global transition to a low-carbon energy future. Last June, Presidents Obama and Xi reached an historic agreement to phase out certain potent greenhouse gases.
- In July, we launched initiatives under the U.S.-China Climate Change Working Group to scale up successful technologies and policies around heavy duty vehicles, smart grids, and carbon capture and sequestration. Given that Asian economies will be the strongest driver of energy demand in the coming decades, how the region meets its energy needs will have critical implications for global energy supply and climate security.
- We have a vested interest in shifting the global energy mix to cleaner, low-carbon, and more efficient energy technologies. As we work toward this goal in Asia, we will partner with regional leaders in renewable and clean-energy technologies, like India, Taiwan, Japan and South Korea, to bring these technologies to the market.
Fostering Democratic Values
- We will continue to help nations strengthen institutions to uphold justice and the rule of law and to meet the basic needs of their people. Working with the Open Government Partnership and the Community of Democracies, we will help protect civil society and support its work to shape the region’s development.
Advancing Human Dignity
- That brings me to our last set of goals— helping improve the well-being of the region’s most vulnerable people, who share the same desire for dignity as all mankind. We want an Asia Pacific region in which poverty continues to decline, citizens are healthier, children are educated, the environment is protected, and women can participate fully and equally in their societies.
- We know we can fight AIDS, reduce preventable child deaths, and improve food security across the Asia Pacific, because we’ve seen real progress in all these areas over the past five years…Our Feed the Future program has helped more than 400,000 rice farmers throughout the region increase their yields through the more efficient use of fertilizer.
- Through the Partnership for Growth, we are working with the Philippines to strengthen the country’s foundations for economic development while improving their ability to mitigate the impact of future disasters.
- Throughout the Pacific Islands, we are partnering with governments to address development challenges ranging from adapting to rapid population growth to reducing high poverty and unemployment rates.
- Finally, we will do more to help foster sustainable growth by protecting the environment and conserving Asia’s natural resources, while implementing measures to help communities adapt to the impact of climate change. We are redoubling our efforts to protect threatened wildlife and reduce trafficking in endangered species in cooperation with regional forums like APEC. Our planet is a non-renewable resource that supports some 7 billion people—half of them in the Asia Pacific. We have a duty to those who will inherit this earth to put in place practices that will sustain and improve life for future generations.
And in conclusion:
- Our pledge to the people of the Philippines reflects our broader pledge to the people of the Asia Pacific. America’s commitment won’t expire a few months or few years from now. The United States of America will be there, reliable, constant, strong and steady for the long haul. And together, with the people of the Asia Pacific, we will continue to advance the shared security, prosperity and human dignity that we all cherish.