New Zealand’s Ministry of Defence released a climate change and security assessment today, reemphasizing the conclusion from many defense establishments that climate change poses a significant threat to national and regional security. The assessment states that “Climate change will be one of the greatest security challenges for New Zealand Defence in the coming decades.”
Titled The Climate Crisis: Defence Readiness and Responsibilities, the report also cites geostrategic competition as a motivator for climate security cooperation in the Pacific, noting that, “Some states could look to use assistance in climate change disaster adaptation, mitigation, response, and recovery as a way to increase influence and access.”
In the context of what the report terms “the New Zealand Government’s re-energised approach to the Pacific,” this assessment will guide defense adaptation under the current review of New Zealand’s Defence Capabilities Plan. It follows the Strategic Defence Policy Statement released earlier this year, which highlighted an increase in humanitarian assistance and disaster relief missions and stability operations, as well as the impact of more frequent and concurrent operational commitments on readiness. The review establishes climate security as an ongoing area of analysis that will shape operational planning.
New Zealand’s climate and defense assessment joins recent activities in the region to acknowledge and address climate risks, including the Australian Senate Inquiry into climate change and national security, and the Pacific Islands Forum’s (the highest political body in the Pacific) Boe Declaration, which defines climate change as the single greatest threat to the livelihoods, security and well-being of Pacific people.
As nations in the region continue to experience climate change-amplified extreme weather, the focus on climate security in the region continues to working its way up the agenda. Regional governance and security forums like the South Pacific Defence Ministers Meeting and the Pacific Environmental Security Forum, as well as a range of NGO events, will keep the issue moving in 2019.