In an important new report, “Climate Change and Security in South Asia: Cooperating for Peace,” Global Military Advisory Council on Climate Change (GMACCC) authors Lt. General Tariq Waseem Ghazi (Ret.) of Pakistan, Maj. General A.N.M. Muniruzzaman (Ret.) of Bangladesh, and Air Marshall A.K. Singh (Ret.) of India recommend that the region’s leaders strengthen cooperation to reduce the potential for widespread human suffering, and further instability, in the wake of a changing climate.
The report also calls for better data collection and sharing to inform policies aimed at preventing climate risks from contributing to:
- Humanitarian crises, and;
- The spread of extremism by groups that exploit opportunities in times of crises and instability.
In South Asia, the report notes, climate change will very likely result in more frequent and more intense natural disasters, spurring water and food insecurity, mass displacement and migration, and competition over land and other natural resources.
The security community understands that waiting for 100% certainty before acting to address climate risks to security is not an option. This report from international military leaders is the latest manifestation of that reality, and policy-makers should take note. In that context, the authors provided a set of concrete recommendations:
Recommendations for regional environmental cooperation to achieve security, stability and sustainability
Recommendation 1: Establish a regional advisory council to regularly analyst climate change related security threats and make recommendations to governments, think tanks and civil society. Such a council could commission the preparation of a periodical – say, annual – consolidated report for South Asia brining together all the sources of environmental security diagnosis and prognosis. The periodic reports should include a regularly updated inventory of South Asia national climate strategies to help drive the exchange of information among governments and action plans as well as on key areas where bi-lateral and regional cooperation and coordination is essential.
Recommendation 2: The consolidated report should be a prominent input into the security and military scenarios as they are developed and updated by the various security think tanks and Ministries of Defence in the region, so was to see where and when conflicts may arise and to advise on preventative measures to be taken by governments, the private sector and civil society across a wide range effecting human and state security.
Recommendation 3: On the national level climate change should be mainstreamed in all national policies and actions. All major government institutions should as the ministries of finance, agriculture, energy, water and defence must work together to devise comprehensive and effective national strategies which tackle the severe climate change-related impacts that could lead to crises.
Recommendation 4: National strategies should also include information campaigns explaining how climate change would adversely impact the quality of life for all. National efforts should include those by academics and researchers, civil society and the private sector.
Recommendation 5: Military strategies in the region need to incorporate climate risks. Deployment needs to be adapted to respond to increased in climate-induced disasters and more frequent relief operations. Threats include rising sea levels and the resulting risks to military installations, including nuclear facilities.
Recommendation 6: Military activities which impact on the environment must be curtailed, e.g. India and Pakistan spend substantial sums each year to retain a military pretense in high glaciers such as Sachin, resulting in ecological deterioration due to the accumulation of pollutions from troops and equipment. In order to better preserve the glacier environment, de-miliatarization of glaciers should be considered as an urgent necessity by all actors concerned.
Recommendation 7: Continuous dialogue is key. Political disagreement must not prevent countries from holding dialogues on challenges as serious as climate change. The countries in the region need to set up a cooperative mechanism or a specific forum on climate change. Such a forum should seek to monitor the risk of an coordinate responses to disasters in the region. Data previously considered sensitive, such as on water flows and temperature shifts should be shared between countries in order to serve as an early warning system for mitigation of disasters on a large scale.
Recommendation 8: Existing cooperative frameworks in the region such as the Indus Waters Treaty and the new cooperation on the Sundarbans, should be strengthened and modernized where necessary. They can serve as inspiration for similar arrangements elsewhere in the various countries.
Recommendation 9: South Asia countries should come together to prepare for the negotiations and decision-making in the Climate Convention, of the UNFCCC, which – while not the international body to specifically discuss the security aspects of climate change – is the most relevant international body to discuss the conditions for security from the climate perspective.
Recommendation 10: All concerned parties should recognize that, while South Asia has a long history of regional instability, continuous dialogue and cooperation on a common challenge such as climate change can act as a catalyst for long term peace in the region. If South Asia can achieve success in cooperation against this common and urgent challenge, it would be a model for other parts of the world.
Click here for the full report. It’s well worth a read.