On 14 June 2017 the Senate referred the following to the Senate Foreign
Affairs, Defence and Trade References Committee for inquiry and report by
4 December 2017:
The implications of climate change for Australia's national
security, with particular reference to:
- the threats and long-term risks posed by climate
change to national security and international security, including those
canvassed in the National security implications of climate-related risks and
a changing climate report by the United States Department of Defense;
- the role of both humanitarian and military response
in addressing climate change, and the means by which these responses are
- the capacity and preparedness of Australia's
relevant national security agencies to respond to climate change risks in our
- the role of Australia's overseas development
assistance in climate change mitigation and adaptation more broadly;
- the role of climate mitigation policies in reducing
national security risks; and
- any other related matters.
On 13 November 2017 the Senate agreed to extend the reporting date to
22 March 2018. On 20 March 2018 the reporting date was extended to 20 April 2018. On 17 April 2018 the reporting date was extended to 17 May 2018.
Conduct of the inquiry
Details of the inquiry were placed on the committee's website at: http://www.aph.gov.au/senate_fadt. The committee
also contacted a number of relevant individuals and organisations to notify
them of the inquiry and invite submissions by 4 August 2017. Submissions
received are listed at Appendix 1.
The committee held two public hearings in Canberra, on 8 December 2017
and 20 March 2018. A list of witnesses who gave evidence is available at
Submissions and the Hansard transcripts of evidence may be accessed
through the committee website.
The committee thanks the organisations and individuals who participated
in the public hearings as well as those who made written submissions.
Structure of the report
This chapter provides information on terminology and introduces the United States
Department of Defense (US DoD) report mentioned in the terms of reference. It
also summarises Australia's climate security governance arrangements.
Chapter 2 provides an overview of the key ways in which climate change
threatens national security. Chapter 3 discusses national measures to improve Australia's
climate security, and chapter 4 includes particular suggestions for the Department
of Defence (Defence) from the evidence. Chapter 5 outlines suggested initiatives
to enhance climate resilience in Australia's region. Chapter 6 includes the
committee's conclusions and recommendations.
Defence's submission used the United Nations (UN) definition of 'climate
...a change of climate which is attributed directly or
indirectly to human activity that alters the composition of the global
atmosphere and which is in addition to natural climate variability observed
over comparable time periods (UN, UN 1992, United Nations Framework Convention
on Climate Change).
The terms of reference focus on 'Australia's national security', which Defence
defined as including 'state and human security' and being 'inherently linked to
the security of health, water, energy, food and economic systems at the local,
national, regional and global level'. 'Human security' is a concept that:
...shifts the political focus from states and their security to
''the existential threats faced by millions of individuals around the world,''
including poverty, food insecurity, environmental degradation, political
repression, and ill-health.
Other submissions reiterated this broad understanding of national
security. Dr Paul Barnes from the Australian Strategic Policy Institute argued that
national security requires communities, infrastructure and the economy to be
viable and resilient. The committee will take a broad view of national security that encompasses
these diverse issues; however, it did not receive as much evidence on matters
such as health, infrastructure, the economy or energy security.
Submissions also used the term 'climate security', which has been
defined as: 'the condition where people, communities, and states have the
capacity to manage stresses emerging from climate change and variability'.
Threat and risk
Though 'threat' is often used to refer to something likely to cause
damage or danger, and 'risk' to describe the likelihood of this occurring, the
evidence received by the committee generally used the terms interchangeably.
US Department of Defense report
The terms of reference refer to the 2015 US DoD report National
security implications of climate-related risks and a changing climate. The
report responded to a Congressional request to the US DoD to:
...identify the most serious and likely climate-related
security risks for each Combatant Command, the ways in which the Combatant
Commands are integrating mitigation of these risks into their planning
processes, and a description of the resources required for an effective
As outlined in more detail in chapter 2, the report identified a range
of risks to military installations, including extreme weather events, sea level
rise and flooding, and temperature changes. It indicated Geographic Combatant Commands considered climate risks in campaign,
operation, contingency and security cooperation plans.
The report also predicted 'climate change will have the greatest impact
on areas and environments already prone to instability', and indicated
Geographic Combatant Commands focused on cooperation and building the capacity
of partner nations through infrastructure, training and equipping.
Australia's climate security
This section provides an overview of Australia's international and
national climate change and security governance structures and strategies.
Australia's involvement in
Australia is a member of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC),
which is open to all UN member countries. The IPCC aims to provide a scientific
view on the current state of climate change knowledge and its environmental and
socioeconomic impacts. Australia is also party to coordinated global responses to climate change, including
the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and 2015 Paris
Agreement. Australia's other international mitigation commitments include participation in
the International Civil Aviation Organization, the Montreal Protocol on
Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer, and the International Maritime
Australia holds a co-chair position on the Board of the Green Climate
Fund, and has also contributed funds to environmental activities in developing
countries through the Global Environment Facility.
International humanitarian and development agreements to which Australia
has committed include the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction
2015–2030, Platform on Disaster Displacement and the 2030 Agenda
for Sustainable Development. Australia is also part of the FRANZ partnership (France, Australia and New
Zealand), which provides coordinated support to Pacific Island countries that
require military and humanitarian support for disaster response and early
recovery. In the aftermath of Tropical Cyclone Winston in 2016, 'FRANZ coordinated our
respective military assets, delivery of supplies, and agreed on a division of
labour to avoid duplication of assistance and effectively support the Fiji
Disaster resilience is considered by committees within the Council of
Australian Governments (COAG) framework, including the Ministerial Council for
Police and Emergency Management (formerly part of the Law, Crime and Community
Safety Council). This is supported by the Australia-New Zealand Emergency Management Committee,
which 'provides strategic leadership on national priorities in disaster
resilience policy and supports national capability and capacity development
initiatives'. It comprises senior officials from the Australian, state and territory
governments, the Australian Local Government Association and New Zealand.
Australia also cooperates with regional partners and US Pacific Command
through the Pacific Environmental Security Forum. This forum includes representatives
from Indo-Pacific nations and works to understand 'the geostrategic
implications of threats to environmental security' and develop 'adaptation and
mitigation strategies to counter the effects of climate change'.
The work of many Commonwealth Government departments and agencies is
related to climate security policy. Submissions predominantly focused on the
Defence portfolio, which includes the Department of Defence and the Australian
Defence Force (collectively known as Defence). Defence appointed a Defence
Climate and Security Adviser in mid-2016 to build climate awareness and to
support the adoption of climate change considerations into 'business as usual'
Australia's national security and emergency management sectors were recently
changed due to the establishment of the Home Affairs Portfolio on 20 December
2017, which 'brings together Australia's federal law enforcement, national and
transport security, criminal justice, emergency management, multicultural
affairs and immigration and border-related functions and agencies'. This portfolio includes the Australian Border Force, Australian Criminal
Intelligence Commission, Australian Federal Police and the Australian
Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre. The Australian Security Intelligence Organisation is also intended to
transition into the portfolio following the passage of legislation. The Department of Home Affairs leads Australian Government policy on domestic
resilience and emergency management through Emergency Management Australia.
Other agencies relevant to the terms of reference include the Australian
Federal Police, Australian Secret Intelligence Service, Department of Foreign
Affairs and Trade, Department of Health, and the Office of National Assessments
(ONA). The ONA website indicates it views climate change as a national security risk, and
states that ONA 'first wrote about climate change in 1981'. The work of ONA is not publicly
available; however, during 2007 ONA confirmed it had undertaken work on the implications
of climate change for national security and international relations in the
region. The Director General at the time stated that their 'work traversed the
economic, scientific, political and strategic implications of climate change'.
Pertinent bodies also include the Australian Government Secretaries
Board on Climate Risk, led by the Department of the Environment and Energy
(DoEE), and the Disaster and Climate Resilience Reference Group, which
considers strategic issues for federal agencies caused by climate change and
disasters. It is co-chaired by DoEE and the Department of Home Affairs, and
includes representatives from 22 federal agencies, including Defence.
National climate change and
Australia does not have a climate security strategy; however, there are
some national strategies which are particularly relevant. For example, the 2011 National Strategy
for Disaster Resilience underscored 'the increasing severity and
regularity of natural disasters in Australia and the need for a coordinated and
cooperative national effort to enhance Australia's capacity to withstand and
recover from emergencies and disasters'. The 2015 National Climate Resilience and Adaptation Strategy identified
principles to guide climate adaptation practice and resilience building.
The 2016 Defence White Paper described climate change as 'a major
challenge for countries in Australia's immediate region', and committed
Australia to provide leadership and support in the region, stating:
Our strategic weight,
proximity and resources place high expectations on us to respond to instability
or natural disasters, and climate change means we will be called on to do so
more often. We will continue to play that role in close collaboration with New
Zealand, France, the United States, Japan and other partners.
The 2017 Foreign Policy White Paper also framed climate change as
an issue requiring inter-country cooperation, and indicated responses to this
threat 'will be an important influence on international affairs and Australia's
economy'. It argued nations 'need to factor climate change in to long-term planning and
investment, including its implications for national and regional security'. The 2017
Foreign Policy White Paper warned the effects of climate change:
development, drive additional displacement of people and, if left unchecked,
add to global stresses on the supply of food and water. Many countries in
Australia's immediate region, especially small island states and those with
large delta cities, will be increasingly affected.
Chapter 2 provides more detail on how climate change is affecting national security.
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