By Shiloh Fetzek, Senior Fellow for International Affairs
On July 12, the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs held the “International conference on climate change and fragility in the Asia-Pacific region — Interlinkage among science, regional studies and business from the perspective of long-term climate risks” in Tokyo, which the Center for Climate and Security contributed to and participated in. The conference built on earlier Japanese leadership on climate security, stemming from its 2016 G7 presidency and leadership of the G7 Foreign Ministers’ Climate Fragility Working Group, which also resulted in a report on climate security issues in Southeast Asia and the Pacific presented at 2017 G7 meeting in Italy and last year’s COP.
The July event was aimed at taking the climate security discussion to the Japanese corporate and finance sectors, illustrating the long tail of risk to Japanese commercial interests in the Asia-Pacific. These include the climate vulnerability of concentrated manufacturing centers in Southeast Asia, as evidenced by the November 2011 floods in Thailand that disrupted supply chains for automotive and electronic components, resulting in a global shortage of hard drives.
While businesses in Japan and elsewhere are increasingly sensitive to climate risk, this conference sought to highlight under-examined aspects of these risks, specifically the ways that climate change may influence fragility. To do so, conference participants – half of whom came from the private sector – took part in a scenario exercise, developed by the Center for Climate and Security, set in a fictitious Southeast Asian or Pacific Island country. The scenario forced participants to make business and governance decisions in a climate and fragility-affected context, where frequent hydrometeorological disasters and sea level rise impact economic productivity, with cascading social and political consequences.
In his opening remarks, Japan’s State Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Kazuyuki Nakane, highlighted that,
“Many countries in the Asia-Pacific region have shown remarkable economic growth in recent years, according to a survey of the United Nations University, but at the same time, 12 countries [are] among the top 20 countries of high-risk countries are exposed to the threat of global natural disaster risk. Amid progress in economic and social development, it is not always easy to take sufficient climate change countermeasures. These areas frequently suffer from natural disasters such as floods and it is pointed out that there is a marked tendency where climate change is increasing such fragility of the region…
“Thus, climate change is not just a cause of instability of the regional economic society but is considered to be a security risk since it induces instability of political instability and regional situation.”
Conference speakers and scenario participants also highlighted the importance of engaging the private sector, with Minister Nakane stating,
“Business revitalization in climate change and decarbonization is an engine that will lead the world economic growth in the future. As business takes a lead in addressing climate change, the climate risk will be lessened and it will in turn stabilize the regional economic and political environment. This is the virtuous circle that we need to create and thus I think the role that the business could play in the field of climate change is essential.”
The Japanese economy is not alone in its dependence on imports from parts of the Asia-Pacific that face both climate hazard exposure and underlying fragility risks. Taking the climate security discussion into new territory with this conference’s focus on private sector actors is exactly the kind of cross-sectoral exchange of information and expertise that needs to happen in order to generate responses to climate security risks that are commensurate with the threat.
For more details on the conference, click here.