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Climate-Forward Diplomacy, Development, and Defense at the Pacific Futures Forum

By Elsa Barron

Last month, the Pacific Futures Forum, which is a platform for collaborative dialogue to re-imagine multilateralism in a changing world, hosted critical conversations in the lead up to the COP26 Glasgow summit. The plenary session, “Transforming our world: a secure, sustainable, and prosperous future,” featured former UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon. In his keynote address, Moon underlined the importance of supporting the political will that was initiated at COP21 to fulfil our moral responsibility to act on climate change. Following this call to action, moderator Samira Ahmed led panelists Hon. Sherri Goodman, Samir Saran, Rear Admiral Neil Morisetti CB, Divya Seshamani, and Benet Northcote in a discussion on a secure, sustainable, and prosperous future. The panel covered the role of diplomacy, development, and defense within the framework of environmental security.

COP26 itself kick-started the conversation on global diplomacy. When asked about her priorities for the global summit, Sherri Goodman, Senior Strategist with the Center for Climate and Security and Chair of the Board at the Council on Strategic Risks, emphasized that we are well on our way to 1.5 degrees celsius of warming, and that temperature rise exacerbates threat multipliers for insecurity such as extreme temperature, drought, and natural disaster. Therefore, Goodman noted, COP26 must focus on the root of the problem: emissions. Enacting deep-decarbonization and setting and achieving net-zero goals is a crucial diplomatic goal in regard to climate change. Samir Saran, President of the Observer Research Foundation, agreed, adding that there is a need for global leadership that is capable of policy making and diplomacy with a long-term perspective in mind, detached from the perpetual need for immediate gain that is often antithetical to solid climate commitments.


3 Pentagon Strategy Documents in 3 Months Highlight Climate Change Risks


Senior-ranking military members discuss current humanitarian assistance operations at a senior leaders seminar at Sattahip Naval Base in Chonburi Province, Thailand Feb. 14, 2017.

From April to June of this year, the U.S. military has issued not one, but three strategy documents that highlight climate change risks to the U.S. military mission. These include:

June 6: Department of Defense Arctic Strategy, U.S. Department of Defense

June 1: The Department of Defense Indo-Pacific Strategy Report: Preparedness, Partnerships and Promoting a Networked Region, U.S. Department of Defense

April 22: United States Coast Guard: Arctic Strategic Outlook, Commandant of the United States Coast Guard


BRIEFER: Sea Level Rise and Deterritorialized States


Kwajalein Atoll

By Collin Douglas, Research Fellow, The Center for Climate and Security

Excerpt: The definition of a state in modern international law has four requirements: a permanent population, a government, the ability to interact with other states, and most important for this context, a defined territory. The prospect of rising seas making low-lying island states uninhabitable, or completely submerged, puts the territorial requirement in jeopardy. However, there are historical examples of flexibility in state control of territory.

Read the full briefer here.



Event: Security & Climate: Issues and Perspectives for the Pacific Coast

US Army Blackhawk Wildfire California

California Army National Guard conducts helicopter bucket training at Irvine Lake,  to prepare for wildfire season

The Center for Climate and Security, with support from The San Diego Foundation and the Skoll Global Threats Fund, is hosting a high-level event ‘Security & Climate Change: Issues and Perspectives for the Pacific Coast’ in San Diego, California on Tuesday, February 21. Confirmed speakers include: San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer (R), Congressman Scott Peters (D-CA), Rear Admiral Yancy B. Lindsey, Commander, Navy Region Southwest, General Ron Keys, U.S. Air Force (ret), Ambassador Reno Harnish, Scripps Institution of Oceanography. The full agenda is below.

The US is a Pacific nation. The Asia-Pacific is one of the most disaster prone and climate vulnerable regions of world with a rapidly-growing population. It’s the most militarized part of the globe, and home to both rising powers and failed states – including states with nuclear capabilities. And it’s also home to some of the U.S.’s closest allies. The US military hosts numerous coastal installations across the region (including on the West Coast of the U.S.), and the U.S. is slowly but surely “rebalancing” towards this critical region. Considering this reality, addressing climate change risks in the Asia-Pacific should be a key element of U.S. national security and foreign policy, not least as that response presents significant opportunities for the United States, both at home and abroad. We are at a critical moment in time when we must decide whether or not we will lead in addressing the most pressing challenges of the 21st century. This conference aims to start answering that question. (more…)

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