Peace, Stability, and Climate Security Across the Pacific
The Paris Climate Agreement that came to fruition in December 2015 was designed to manage greenhouse gas emissions and build climate resilience. Since its adoption, nations across the globe have committed to this historic Agreement on climate change. With a goal of limiting the rise in global temperatures to 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, the Agreement’s objectives require cooperation and coordination by the international community. Thus far, 134 countries have signed onto the Paris Agreement, demonstrating the urgency of mitigating the effects of climate change and the interest of nations across the world. While climate change is associated with rising sea levels and warmer temperatures, the issue also challenges international security in terms of migration, political borders, and agricultural production.
The Asia-Pacific provides an excellent example of the multitude of security concerns climate change can impose. Typhoons in the Philippines, strain in rice production in Vietnam, and hazardous smog levels in China are only a few cases that show the impact of climate change. While climate-related disasters continue to burden the Asia-Pacific, its leader’s adoption of the Paris Agreement signify their willingness to take action. It is important that the U.S. harnesses this opportunity to engage with leaders from the Asia-Pacific.
The Philippines recent history of deadly environmental disasters exemplifies the reality of climate change and the need for urgency. In March of this year, the Philippines’ President Rodrigo Duterte signed the Paris Agreement on Climate Change after previously lambasting it as a deal favoring western nations while inhibiting the less developed countries from industrialization. Despite his previously held reservations, President Duterte’s move signifies how this Agreement is critical to the security of nations most vulnerable to climate change. The Philippine capitol, Manila has already committed to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by 70 percent by 2030. While only steps away from ratification, the ambitious target of the Philippines requires financial, infrastructural, and technical assistance, areas in which the United States support would be invaluable.
Prior to the Philippines’ signature, its neighbor Vietnam, signed a resolution, ratifying the Paris Agreement and the Action Plan to implement it. Vietnam’s goal is to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 8% by 2030. While this may appear as a less ambitious target, it is estimated that the climate change adaptation initiatives necessary to uphold this emissions reduction is approximately $30 billion. The costs of industrialization has taken a toll on its air quality and the amount of river pollution effecting the livelihood of farmers and fisheries. Since 2012, the Vietnamese government has promoted the concept of “green growth,” continuing the country’s development while minimizing its environmental footprint. Unfortunately, Vietnam’s goals for green growth may face challenges due to the financial burden.
The Philippines and Vietnam’s interest in controlling their carbon emissions, moving towards sustainable development, the Paris Agreement bodes well for the future stability and security of these Southeast Asian nations. However, the success of their environmental commitments is contingent upon having access to efficient technology and resources. Furthermore, as mitigating the contributing factors to global warming do not occur instantaneously, those most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change need adequate assistance and infrastructure to appropriately manage current and future disasters.
Solar energy, wind power, and hydroelectricity are already areas of expertise for the United States. The U.S has an opportunity to help these countries reduce their dependency on fossil fuels while also improving their energy security. In addition, by assisting these countries, the United States further builds and strengthens its Asia-Pacific partnerships, thus solidifying its regional position. As North Korea continues its nuclear testings, China asserts sovereignty claims in the South China Sea, and porous Southeast nations are become a breeding ground for terrorist activities, engaging the Asia-Pacific through climate change action will be even more crucial to the stability and security of the Pacific Rim.