After much deliberation and delay the Turnbull Government released its Defence White Paper on 25 February 2016. Initial reactions to the White Paper from security experts and the media focused on spending promises, new kit, increased arms capability and reactions from China.
We’re pleased to say the White Paper took an important step by clearly acknowledging climate change has national security consequences for Australia. There are several explicit references in the White Paper (pp. 16, 41, 48, 55-56 and 102). The references deal mainly with the climatic challenges confronting our South-East Asian and South Pacific neighbours, and how our defence estate must adapt to sea level rises and extreme weather.
With climate change back on the agenda, the next focus point is the Implementation Strategy for the White Paper due at the end of March. It will be interesting to see how the Government’s rhetoric and commitments – which include spending over $440 billion on defence in the next ten years – are translated into tangible action for the coming decade, including on climate security.
When we wrote The Longest Conflict our interviews with Defence officials indicated climate change wouldn’t be mentioned at all. Our report reinforced how regressive a step that would have been. Thankfully that has been averted, thanks to the work of many organisations and committed individuals, including in particular those within Defence who have been agitating for this for some time. We’re pleased to have been part of these efforts and will continue to work hard to ensure the other recommendations in The Longest Conflict are advanced.
CPD’s work has been acknowledged by the report of the Defence White Paper Expert Panel (see p. 30). You’ll be familiar with the coverage of The Longest Conflict itself. Since the release we’ve briefed the Chief of Army, Chief of Navy, other members of Defence, DFAT and Intelligence, and those part of the White Paper drafting team on our findings. Climate-induced displaced is now also an important focus of the Asia Dialogue on Forced Migration, which we lead. A report on the second Dialogue meeting in Bangkok is available here.
Also, here is some related coverage of the White Paper and CPD’s contribution.
If you are interested to understand why tackling climate security challenges is so important, feel free to read CPD Director Rob Sturrock’s recent work on climate security:
Australia’s peace threatened by climate change, June 22 2015
Deepening Australia’s regional relationships through climate security, 10 December 2015
You can also access the CPD report, The Longest Conflict: Australia’s Security Challenge and the ensuing media coverage here.