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Climate Change Remains a Consistent Theme at Shangri-La Security Dialogue

U.S._Japan_and_Australian_Trilateral_meeting_Shangri-La 2018

U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis meets with Australian Minister of Defense, Senator Marise Payne and Japanese Minister of Defense, Itsunori Onodera, at Shangri-La Dialogue, June 2, 2018. (DoD Photo by Tech Sgt. Vernon Young Jr.)

By Steve Tebbe, Policy Associate

When Florence Parly, the French Minister of the Armed Forces, called to “disarm the climate” at this year’s IISS Shangri-La Dialogue (17th Asia Security Summit), it helped exemplify how seriously the summit’s panelists were taking the security risks of climate change. The Dialogue continued the pattern of recent Shangri-La Dialogues and other security conferences, with a range of leading defense ministers and practitioners speaking on how the changing climate has impacted their security.

Asia-Pacific defense ministers, military and civilian staff gather in Shangri-La every year to discuss the trends and threats in Indo-Pacific regional security. News outlets have covered the emphasis on ASEAN terrorism, the Korean Peninsula, and emphasized the Indo-Pacific space across the Dialogue. However, climate security was included in a number of speaker’s talks this year, including Minister Parly, Ron Mark, the Minister of Defence of New Zealand, and Philip Barton, the Director-General for Consular and Security at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office of the UK. In the Sixth Special Session focusing on regional security cooperation, Vice Admiral Hervé de Bonnaventure, the Acting Director-General of International Relations and Strategy at the French Ministry of the Armed Forces noted that he believes climate directly changes military operations: (more…)

Climate Security Prominent in the Shangri-La Dialogue

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates addresses the audience during the 6th International Institute for Strategic Studies conference, the Shangri-La dialogue, in Singapore, June 2, 2007, Defense Dept. photo by Cherie A. Thurlby

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates addresses the audience during the 6th International Institute for Strategic Studies conference, the Shangri-La dialogue, 2007, Defense Dept. photo by Cherie A. Thurlby

The IISS Shangri-La Dialogue (14th Asia Security Summit), an annual gathering of Asia-Pacific defense ministers, military and civilian staff, just concluded on May 31. Most of the media attention was focused on exchanges between the United States and China over the South China Sea, but climate security found its way into a number of discussions, including the prepared remarks of U.S. Secretary of Defense Dr. Ash Carter; Cirilo Cristóvão, Minister of Defence, Timor-Leste; Dr Fabian Pok, Minister for Defence, Papua New Guinea, and Federica Mogherini, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy (and Vice-President of the European Commission). Several other officials also addressed the issue during the Q&A sessions.

Below are excerpts from the speeches. Perhaps equally as significant as where climate change was mentioned is where it was not. It is perhaps these parts of the discussion, including the plenary sessions on New Forms of Security Collaboration in Asia and Preventing Conflict Escalation, that provide an interesting look into how these discussions can continue to evolve to better incorporate climate security dynamics. In the Special Session on Energy Security Challenges in the Indo-Pacific Region, for example, climate change was not mentioned until the Q&A portion of the discussion.

On the other hand, attention to humanitarian assistance and disaster response was, appropriately, ubiquitous. Given that climate change is projected to increase the frequency and intensity of natural disasters in the region, future discussions on how to address these increased risks could potentially lead to additional opportunities for broader and deeper cooperation between Asia-Pacific nations. (more…)

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