Chapter 5

Chapter 5

Opportunities to increase regional resilience

5.1        The effects of climate change on national and regional security:

...depend not only on the magnitude of climate change but largely on context-based vulnerabilities related to water and energy infrastructure, interdependencies in supply chain of key commodities, social and political institutions, and ultimately, societies' adaptive capacity.[1]

5.2        The committee heard Australia's official development assistance (ODA) supports climate change mitigation and adaptation, and that this improves Australia's national security by increasing stability and resilience in the region.[2] Resilience in this context has been defined as 'the ability of a system, community or society exposed to hazards, and/or climate change, to resist, absorb, accommodate, recover and transfer the a timely and efficient manner'.[3]

5.3        The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) explained its programs 'play a part in reducing climate change's threat multiplier effect', including those supporting 'economic diplomacy, water, agriculture, disaster risk reduction, education, health, infrastructure, trade, governance, disability and gender equality'.[4] This chapter summarises suggestions for Australia to lead on climate security in the region, increase its ODA, and respond to climate-related population displacement and migration.

Increase regional resilience through greater climate security leadership

5.4        Chapter 2 noted that some submissions proposed the creation of a diplomatic or military climate security envoy with responsibility for international engagement, and the establishment of a Climate and Security Office in DFAT to support international coordination.[5] The committee also heard other opportunities for Australia to adopt a greater international leadership role to improve Australia's diplomatic relationships and promote climate security, as outlined below.

Diplomatic cooperation 

5.5        The committee heard countries other than Australia are demonstrating more climate leadership in the region, including the United Kingdom (UK), France, New Zealand (NZ) and the United States (US).[6] World Vision warned '[i]nadequate support in addressing the potential impact of climate change, may have diplomatic consequences for Australia'.[7] Peacifica quoted Pacific Islanders who described Australia as 'part of a ''coalition of the selfish''10 due to its climate change policies'.[8] Professor Anthony Burke and Professor Shirley Scott of the Australian Defence Force Academy (ADFA) characterised climate change as an opportunity to strengthen diplomatic ties with Pacific Island countries (PICs):

The competition for strategic influence that is under way in the South Pacific is a significant national security concern that can be met through active partnership with the region in addressing the threat and effects of climate change.[9]

5.6        The Center for Climate and Security from the US recommended Australia extend its regional leadership by prioritising climate security within existing regional fora, such as ASEAN, ASEAN Regional Forum, the East Asia Summit, Asia-Pacific Roundtable, Jakarta and Seoul Defence Dialogues.[10]

5.7        Some submissions called for Australia to increase its climate security leadership beyond the region. American climate security expert, Ms Sherri Goodman, called for Australia to engage broadly in an international community of practice on climate security issues, including disaster risk reduction and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HADR).[11] Professor Scott indicated Australia should promote international consideration of climate security issues to support its application to the United Nations (UN) Security Council as a non-permanent member in 2029-30.[12] Submissions also emphasised opportunities for Australia to share expertise across the region, including in climate change risk assessment; climate change mitigation; tropical health; and agriculture, construction and energy sectors.[13]

5.8        DFAT described Australia as 'a leading provider of international humanitarian response, particularly in [Australia's] region'.[14] It noted Australia participates in regional fora including 'the East Asia Summit, Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, the Pacific Islands Forum and the Indian Ocean Rim Association'.[15] DFAT also underscored Australia's participation in the FRANZ partnership, which provides multilateral support to PICs.[16]

5.9        DFAT further stated that Australia will assist the region to implement the Framework for Resilient Development in the Pacific (FRDP), which was endorsed by Pacific Island Forum Leaders in 2016.[17] The FRDP is the 'overarching policy framework for integrated action on climate change and disaster risk management' in the region.[18] DFAT is ensuring:

–Risk-informed development is embedded in development policy and planning processes of bilateral partner governments.

– Governments are prepared to respond and recover.

– Communities are aware of, and have the resources to plan and prepare for, natural hazards in a changing climate.[19]

Defence cooperation

5.10      The 2017 Foreign Policy White Paper reasoned '[s]tability in Papua New Guinea, the wider Pacific and Timor– vital to our ability to defend Australia's northern approaches, secure our borders and protect our exclusive economic zone'.[20] It outlined Australia's 'commitment to work with governments in the Pacific to respond to climate change, bolster resilience, strengthen emergency responses and improve governance, education, health and gender outcomes'.[21]

5.11      The Centre for Policy Development (CPD) supported a greater focus on interoperability with partner nations including the US, UK and NZ, and argued 'Australia should perform a stronger leadership role in improving coordination and interoperability with regional partners'.[22] It further suggested Defence 'should also pursue coordinated planning and risk assessment on climate security' with countries including Japan, the US and Indonesia, to identify regional vulnerabilities and inform wargaming scenarios.[23]

5.12      Dr Anthony Bergin and Ms Zoe Glasson, Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI), advised that Australia should become 'more involved in the Multinational Planning Augmentation Team operated by the US Pacific Command (PACOM), which facilitates planning and education for natural disasters and humanitarian risks across the Asia-Pacific region'.[24] Defence collaborates 'on environmental security issues' with PACOM 'through the annual Pacific Environmental Security Forum', which 'works to develop practical adaptation and mitigation strategies to counter the effects of climate change'.[25] Defence also builds partner country capability and capacity through the Defence Cooperation Program.[26]

Embed climate change across Australia's aid program

5.13      The committee heard that DFAT could do more to address the effects of climate change through its ODA programs. Ms Lucy Manne, ActionAid Australia, told the committee her views on the 2017 Foreign Policy White Paper and the DFAT Humanitarian Strategy 2016, which integrates implementation of the Paris Agreement across DFAT's activities.[27] She stated the documents include 'really good recognition...of the role that climate change is playing on security in the region and around the world and how it's an incredibly important risk now and will continue to be so in the future'.[28] However, she identified:

...a big disconnect between that recognition on the one hand and the policy response on the other hand. While there is a really strong recognition from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade that this is a major issue that needs to be addressed as part of our foreign policy response, at the moment we haven't seen mitigation policies that are bipartisan and in line with our commitments, we don't have an adequate contribution to climate finance, we don't have a comprehensive response that's strategic and long term across the department that takes into account both development and humanitarian response in the aid budget, and we also don't have sufficient programs in the aid budget that bring together humanitarian work and climate work.[29]

5.14      DFAT's submission outlined Australia's contributions to climate change mitigation, adaptation and disaster risk resilience across the region. It indicated that because 'climate change multiplies threats across a wide spectrum, DFAT investments span governance, economic and social policy, agriculture, water, forestry and infrastructure'.[30] Australia's aid is intended to 'align with each country's Nationally Determined Contributions (including mitigation targets) and National Adaptation Plans that guide climate-resilient planning and actions'.[31] DFAT advised it is already integrating climate action and disaster resilience 'across the entire aid program, bilaterally, regionally and globally' by:

  1. mainstreaming climate action across the aid program portfolio investments, comprising: climate risk analyses; climate-smart and climate-proofing new investments; institutional, policy and programmatic capacity-building;
  2. targeted climate-change mitigation and/or adaptation investments.[32]

5.15      Australian aid is focused in the Indo-Pacific region, which is 'at high risk of disasters', including PICs.[33] The FRDP notes the 'impact of natural hazards and climate change threaten their integrity, food security, water, health, infrastructure, livelihoods and economies and, more broadly, their populations and ecosystems'.[34] In response, DFAT is developing the Australia Pacific Climate Change Action Program. This will seek to 'increase the effectiveness of Australia's support for climate change action and disaster resilience in the Pacific' and have an investment budget of $22.6 million over four years from 2018 to 2022.[35] DFAT is also developing a Pacific Humanitarian Strategy, which advocates 'a shift in the way we pursue our objectives in three key areas: localisation of humanitarian action; a greater emphasis on prevention and preparedness; and accelerating post-crisis recovery and reconstruction'.[36]

5.16      DFAT indicated that, previously, 'different regions have taken the lead on climate change development aid for their regions'.[37] At the time of writing, work is being undertaken to release a climate change strategy for Australia's aid program during 2018, as recommended by a number of submissions.[38] Submissions suggested this strategy should support the priorities of affected countries and communities, focus on human security, and empower groups disproportionately affected by climate change, particularly women and children.[39] This aligns with the FRDP, which 'advocates for the systematic adoption of inclusive and participatory processes, which gather contributions across different stakeholder groups, women and men, and in particular the most vulnerable members of society'.[40]

5.17      The committee heard that climate change 'amplifies the risks facing people who are already marginalized due to inequalities', and CARE Australia has found '[e]ngaging women as well as men in responding to climate change makes mitigation and adaptation more effective'.[41] ActionAid Australia suggested Australia's ODA 'should include greater investment and commitment to resourcing women's organisations in leading disaster preparedness and resilience to climate change'.[42] The committee notes that one of the activities of the Australia Pacific Climate Change Action Program Support Unit is 'Gender and social inclusion'.[43]

Provide additional climate-related official development assistance

5.18      Under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), developed countries committed to providing financial resources to assist developing countries with mitigation and adaptation, including mobilising at least USD $100 billion per year between 2020 and 2025.[44] Within this context, the Prime Minister agreed to provide at least AUD $1 billion over five years from the existing aid budget to build climate change resilience and reduce emissions in developing countries.[45] This included $200 million to the Green Climate Fund and $300 million to address climate change in PICs (2016-2020).[46]

5.19      A number of submissions were critical that Australia's existing climate funding has been drawn from the overall ODA budget, rather than from 'new and additional funding'.[47] Mr Patrick Suckling, Ambassador for the Environment, DFAT, told the committee:

...the thing about climate finance is that, when you say 'additional', it's often embedded in existing aid programs. For example, a lot of the infrastructure development that we are doing in the Pacific at the moment is being climate-proofed. You would build a road and that could be an infrastructure project in PNG, for example, or in Kiribati, but, because we then climate-proof it to a certain tolerance of being able to weather different storms and natural disasters, the additional element to climate-proof it then gets accounted as climate finance. In that sense, it's hard to compare apples with apples when you're having a marginal addition to a major infrastructure project that's creating a climate-proofed project.[48]

5.20      Many submissions advocated Australia increase its contribution to climate aid and finance.[49] Professor Jon Barnett, University of Melbourne, argued the 'nature and volume of Australian ODA is insufficient given the risks climate change poses to our security interests'.[50] Dr Matthew Dornan from the Australian National University (ANU) cautioned 'perceptions about Australia's climate finance commitments, combined with perceived weakness with respect to climate change mitigation, have damaged Australia's standing internationally'.[51]

5.21      The committee heard Australia's total contribution of public and private funding to international climate finance should be increased to $3.2 billion per year by 2020, which represents approximately 2.4 per cent of the global USD $100 billion commitment.[52] Dr Simon Bradshaw, Oxfam Australia, noted Australia's climate finance contribution equates to 'about 0.3 per cent of international climate finance flows' (2014-2015 financial year).[53] Dr Amrita Malhi from the Australian Council for International Development (ACFID) acknowledged this target 'will require a whole-of-government push, some public finance and a coordinated push to mobilise other sources of money as well'.[54]

5.22      Some submissions suggested how much public climate funding the Australian Government should allocate per year. Dr Dornan suggested the contribution should be increased to 'at least $300 million annually by 2020', while ACFID elsewhere proposed $1,600 million of new and additional public funding by the 2019-2020 financial year.[55]

5.23      The Warsaw International Mechanism for Loss and Damage associated with Climate Change Impacts 'is the main vehicle under the Convention to address loss and damage associated with climate change impacts in developing countries that are particularly vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change'.[56] While submissions did not provide substantial information on this topic, the committee is aware of an international movement advocating that vulnerable populations receive financial support for addressing climate change-related loss and damage, beyond climate mitigation and adaptation aid and finance.[57]

5.24      Some submissions recommended increasing Australia's overall ODA budget.[58] The committee heard a range of specific recommendations about how climate funding and support should be distributed. As outlined below, these suggestions included: allocating additional money towards climate funds, reducing emissions (mitigation), supporting communities to adapt to changing conditions, preparing communities for extreme weather events through disaster risk reduction measures, delivering HADR once disasters have occurred, and disseminating climate science across partner countries.

Climate funds 

5.25      Australia contributes to multilateral fund and banks, such as the World Bank Group and Asian Development Bank, which provide support for climate mitigation, adaptation and resilience building.[59] DFAT is also mobilising 'financing for clean energy projects in developing countries' through the Private Financing Advisory Network, and giving 'matching finance for clean energy projects under DFAT's Business Partnerships Platform'.[60] Australia contributed $93 million to mobilising private climate finance through the Global Environment Facility in 2014, 'the largest funder of projects to improve the global environment'.[61] DFAT is considering 'integrating climate finance more strongly through the aid program because climate impacts magnify development challenges pretty much across the spectrum'.[62]

5.26      DFAT further encourages a focus on private sector climate finance and investment through the Green Climate Fund (GCF).[63] The GCF was established by countries party to the UNFCCC, and is:

...the largest multilateral fund for supporting climate change-mitigation and adaptation in developing countries. It helps to implement the Paris Agreement goals by funding high impact, transformational projects, and catalysing climate finance from other sources including the private sector.[64]

5.27      Australia is Co-Chair of the GCF, and committed '$200 million for the Fund's initial resource mobilisation for 2015-2018'.[65] Associate Professor Matt McDonald  contended Australia's contribution to the GCF: 

...could be significantly increased as an indication of Australia's commitment to global climate security, and as recognition of the implications that climate change could have for Australian national security through its effects on vulnerable states in the region.[66]

5.28      DFAT indicated Australia is working to improve access to GCF resources for Pacific countries, noting the GFC Board has approved five Pacific climate projects in various PICs equating to 'up to US$165 million'.[67] Submissions commended Australia's leadership and provision of support for PICs to access resources for mitigation and adaptation through the GCF.[68]

5.29      ACFID argued many PICs 'continue to face challenges in accessing funding' through the GCF, and 'the accreditation process is emerging as a roadblock for NGOs, requiring significant resources'.[69] ACFID, World Vision Australia and Oxfam Australia recommended Australia provide further support and simplify procedures to ensure climate aid and finance is accessible to vulnerable communities and the non-government organisations that support them.[70]

Climate mitigation

5.30      DFAT supports a range of projects across the region to assist partner countries reduce their greenhouse gas emissions (climate mitigation). These mitigation initiatives include bilateral and regional investments in renewable energy.[71] DFAT provided the examples of the Tina River Hydropower Project ($26.7 million) in the Solomon Islands, and the Variable Renewable Energy Grid Integration Program ($1.5 million) which is supporting ten PICs to 'integrate solar and wind into electricity grids while maintaining reliability, affordability and adequacy of supply'.[72] DFAT also described other mitigation measures in the forestry and land use sectors in South East Asia.[73] In addition, DFAT noted mitigation measures 'often include adaptation and resilience-building benefits'.[74] It provided the example of the AgResults initiative in Vietnam, which:

...incentivises the uptake of technologies to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from paddy rice farming, while simultaneously increasing poor farmers' yields, which have been impacted by changing climatic conditions. Alongside emission mitigation, this project assists farmers to adapt to new climatic conditions and to build resilience, through improved agricultural productivity and nutrition, and catalysing private sector investment.[75]


5.31      DFAT observed that adaptation measures that support communities to build resilience to the impacts of climate change are important because 'historic emissions mean some climate change is inevitable and impacts are already being felt'.[76] Dr Bradshaw, Oxfam Australia, explained investments in 'adaptation resilience building not only reduce the human cost on communities but are avoiding what would then be much more significant costs in humanitarian response in future'.[77] DFAT maintained 'adaptation and resilience building are central to our investments', and listed examples of Australian ODA supporting climate adaptation, ranging from:

...climate-smart infrastructure projects and climate forecasting capacity building in the Pacific, to agricultural livelihoods and, in Asia, a particular focus on water management in view of the potential future social, political and economic impacts of water scarcity. Other examples include enhancing oceans governance in the Pacific and the Integrated Coastal Management Program in Vietnam.[78]

5.32      Submissions recommended the establishment of a program to facilitate adaptation initiatives in vulnerable communities, similar to the previous Community-based Climate Change Action Grants Program, including child-centred initiatives.[79]

5.33      ACFID noted 60 per cent of Australia's climate finance during the 2013-2014 and 2014-2015 financial years 'went towards adaptation, bucking a global trend that has continued to see the majority of funding flow to mitigation projects'.[80] ACFID reiterated the 'finance flowing to mitigation (avoiding emissions) should be balanced by finance flowing to adaptation (building resilience to impacts)' as agreed under the Paris Agreement.[81]

5.34      Oxfam Australia expressed concerns that Australia's 'increasing emphasis on the private sector to contribute to climate finance' may mean adaptation measures in vulnerable communities do not receive adequate funding, 'especially when those at greatest risk from climate change are the least able to attract private investment'.[82] Dr Dornan explained 'adaptation cannot be traded in regional or global markets in the same way as mitigation', so is unlikely to receive private investments seeking financial return on investments.[83] Most submissions that argued Australia's contribution to climate finance should increase to $3.2 billion per year by 2020 also suggested at least 50 per cent of this funding should be dedicated to climate adaptation measures.[84]

Disaster risk reduction and response  

5.35      Australia contributes to disaster risk reduction (DRR) initiatives in the region. Griffith University explained that '[a]daptation is generally focused on strategic planning and decision making, while disaster risk management is more focussed on real time emergency responses'.[85] DFAT stated that DRR 'encompasses discrete activities, such as physical improvements to infrastructure, as well as embedded actions across all aid investments to prevent creation of new risk, reduce existing risk and manage residual risk'.[86] Other submissions underlined the importance of DRR initiatives such as 'risk mapping', emergency response planning, and the development of regional early warning and climate information systems.[87]

5.36      The United States Department of Defense focuses on supporting partner nations to respond to climate change through building infrastructure, training and equipping.[88] Dr Anthony Bergin suggested the Australian military could emulate the US and do more to 'work with regional civil and military authorities to strengthen fragile infrastructure'.[89]

5.37      DFAT stated a 'significant proportion' of its efforts are 'directed to the broader issues of DRR and building the capacity of the wider international system and countries to respond'.[90] Of the $300 million Australian funding to address climate change in PICs from 2016-2020, $75 million is dedicated to disaster resilience investments.[91] DFAT provided the example of the Philippines Disaster and Climate Risks Management initiative ($31.4 million), which is:

...strengthening the Philippines government's capacity for disaster   preparedness, including via: i) technical agencies' capacity building on disaster response and monitoring, early warning and forecasting, hazard and risk analysis, climate science and adaptation options (to better inform disaster and climate risk management in vulnerable areas); ii) technical and policy support on integrating disaster risk management and climate change and mainstreaming across government and development sectors; iii) facilitating linkages between technical agencies in the Philippines with their Australian counterparts and non-government organisations.[92]

5.38      Australia also contributed to the Pacific Risk Resilience Program, which sought to strengthen the resilience of four PICs and 'support a strong enabling environment for risk governance to empower communities to identify risks and needs, and formulate and implement sustainable responses'.[93]

5.39      ACFID noted 'DRR programs are proven to protect long-term development gains, minimise economic losses and prevent damage to infrastructure'.[94] DFAT's Humanitarian Strategy stated '[e]ven the most conservative estimates suggest that $1 invested into DRR activities saves up to $15 in response and recovery costs in the aftermath of a disaster'.[95] On this basis, submissions advocated that funding for DRR should be increased to at least 5 per cent of Australia's total ODA budget, from approximately 2–3 per cent.[96]

5.40      ACIFD also underlined that DRR funding 'has often not been sufficiently or consistently tracked'.[97] World Vision Australia recommended the development of mechanisms to calculate the amount of ODA allocated to DRR measures more precisely.[98] DFAT informed the committee that it is:

...developing a marker to capture DRR funding within 'AidWorks'-our aid management system. The system will assist with identification of DRR components within aid investments. In addition to tracking funding over time, this system will provide data to support reporting against the global target F of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-20. The new system will be launched in July 2018.[99]

Humanitarian assistance and disaster relief

5.41      In addition to supporting initiatives to prepare PICs to respond to disasters, Australia also provides assistance in their aftermath. Australia currently provides $150 million per annum in ODA through the Humanitarian Emergency Fund, which allocates crisis funding to various country and regional programs, including those beyond Australia's region.[100] Arguing that Australia has a responsibility to contribute to global humanitarian needs within and beyond the region, Oxfam Australia suggested increasing this to $260 million from 2018–19, to 'ensure that Australia can continue to uphold its global humanitarian responsibilities...given the unprecedented level of need'.[101]

5.42      Defence and DFAT work closely 'on preparation for humanitarian disaster response including training and positioning of supplies'.[102] The committee heard evidence from non-government organisations that Defence could improve its relationships with local and international humanitarian organisations. ActionAid Australia identified 'a need to create more space for dialogue between the military and humanitarian actors, so there is a clear understanding of different roles and mandates and a coordinated and complimentary approach'.[103] Ms Manne emphasised the need for cooperation between civil society and a range of government actors including Defence, foreign affairs, and the departments with responsibility for immigration and the environment.[104] Dr Malhi added: 

More cooperation would be wonderful and we'd love to see it. We recognise that there are a few attempts being made here and there. We'd like them to be brought together in a comprehensive strategy, a whole-of-government strategy, where everyone can play an appropriate role.[105]

Climate science  

5.43      The committee heard that building climate resilience across the region 'requires greater information and knowledge sharing about climate change and responding to the risks it presents'.[106] The Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat suggested the enhancement of current initiatives, including 'investments in science and adaptation planning, support to national weather and climate services to improve climate risk early warning systems, and support the implementation of the FRDP'.[107] The FRDP calls for development partners to:

Strengthen effective use of science, technology and knowledge management (including analysis tools required to assess risk) to understand underlying drivers and to inform disaster risk reduction, climate change adaptation, loss and damage, and support the application of new technologies and innovative solutions.[108]

5.44      Australia shares climate science and expertise with partner countries through a range of initiatives. The Department of the Environment and Energy (DoEE) and the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM):

...have had key roles in delivering a long-term investment in climate change science and data, meteorological capability, and adaptation information and planning for the Pacific, often in partnership with CSIRO. Initiatives include the Climate and Oceans Support Program in the Pacific, the Pacific Risk Resilience Program, and the Pacific-Australia Climate Change Science and Adaptation Planning program.[109]

5.45      The Climate and Oceans Support Program in the Pacific is delivered by BOM ($39 million, 2012-2018) and supports 14 Pacific national meteorological services to 'better understand and use climate, ocean and sea- level products for the benefit of island communities and governments'.[110] CSIRO has also 'engaged in climate adaptation research partnerships with countries in the Asia-Pacific region to better understand and support the capacity of those countries to manage the potential risks and impacts of climate change'.[111]

5.46      DFAT is funding the Pacific Climate Change Information Management Project (iCLIM) from 2015-2018 ($1.5 million).[112] This partnership between Griffith University and the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme seeks to improve 'the ability of regional bodies, governments and other stakeholders to discover, store, access and utilize climate change information and data'.[113] Geoscience Australia has also been improving data access and usage through the new PacSAFE desktop tool to national disaster management-related agencies in Tonga and Fiji ($1 million, 2015–2018).[114]

5.47      DoEE noted Australia also provides climate mitigation support: researching and developing clean energy technologies, conserving rainforests and coastal blue carbon ecosystems, and building capacity for measuring and reporting on emissions. Cooperation initiatives between Australia and others in the international community include bilateral and multilateral initiatives such as the Asia-Pacific Rainforest Partnership, the Global Forest Observations Initiative, the International Partnership for Blue Carbon, and the Coral Triangle Initiative on Coral Reefs, Fisheries and Food Security.[115]

5.48      The Crawford Fund, an international agricultural research advocacy group, noted the 'good examples of how Australia is helping neighbouring countries cope with increasing food production under changing climatic conditions', including the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) and Australian Water Partnership.[116] An example of ACIAR's work is the project to improve the sustainability of rice-shrimp farming systems in Vietnam as wet-season salinity is increasing.[117] The Crawford Fund recognised 'total funding to these organisations is a very small percentage of our total foreign aid budget and has not been increased to match the increasing severity of regional food demand, nor the growing risks posed by climate change'.[118] Mr Nic Maclellan posited 'damage to Australian institutions' such as 'funding cuts to the CSIRO and Australian Bureau of Meteorology...reduce the sustainability of their engagement with Pacific island counterparts'.[119]

5.49      The committee heard:

Better mechanisms are needed to coordinate expertise that supports adaptation and resilience plans and actions.... Rather than contracting this out on a project-by-project basis, it could benefit both Australia's national interest and information sharing among countries, if there was a higher-level platform from which Australia could more easily coordinate support to the region and through which partner nations could ensure new information was shared and developed in a consistent way.[120]

Human mobility

5.50      Chapter 2 outlined the evidence on the contribution of climate change to population displacement and migration in Australia's region. The committee heard varying evidence regarding the nature and scale of this movement, and the extent to which it will be problematic for Australia's national security. Submissions agreed some level of climate-related displacement is inevitable.[121] Peacifica argued 'collaborative approaches to managing them and welcoming those who need new homes (in Australia or elsewhere in the region) will significantly reduce the cost of those movements and risk of conflict'.[122] Oxfam Australia called for: integrated global agenda aimed at minimizing displacement, upholding the rights of people on the move, and supporting strategies to ensure safe and dignified movement for those who may be forced to move in the future.[123]

5.51      Submissions presented a range of suggestions for protecting human security in the region and reducing the risk and extent of future displacement, as outlined below.

Prevention of population displacement

5.52      Proposals generally involved initiatives to prevent population displacement through climate mitigation, adaptation and disaster risk reduction initiatives, as well as delivering HADR when required. Professor Burke supported resilience building and the ability of people 'to move within their own countries because...that's what people want'.[124] The Kaldor Centre and Friends of the Earth Brisbane emphasised:

By systematically integrating disaster risk reduction measures, there is a better chance that if disaster strikes, some people may avoid displacement altogether – or at least be displaced for a much shorter period of time.[125]

5.53      Australia is a member of the Platform on Disaster Displacement, which is intended to implement the recommendations of the Protection Agenda stemming from the Nansen Initiative on Disaster-Induced Cross-Border Displacement.[126]

Protection of displaced people

5.54      Submissions made recommendations relating to how Australia should respond to population displacement when it does occur. The Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP) noted:

Under the United Nations 1951 Refugees Convention, people displaced for environmental reasons are not considered to be refugees unless they have a well founded fear of persecution in their country of origin. There is no internationally agreed position on expanding the current definition of a refugee or impetus to create a new international protection obligation to encompass people displaced by climate change.[127]

5.55      However, Oxfam Australia pointed out the needs of people displaced by the effects of climate change can be similar to refugees: 

...they may have lost their homes, been separated from family, or be in need of medical assistance. The individual protection needs of women, men, boys, girls and people with particular vulnerabilities can be significant irrespective of whether they have been displaced because of armed conflict, persecution, disasters or climate change.[128]

5.56      Ms Goodman suggested that Australia needs to rethink current governance models to better prepare for climate-related migration.[129] Professor Burke and Professor Scott warned 'approaches to the potential for forced climate migration must be consistent with international human rights law'.[130] The Kaldor Centre advised Australia could develop temporary protection options for people affected by disasters, such as humanitarian visas or extended stay arrangements.[131] It found 'evidence shows that most people in such circumstances will be keen to go home and rebuild as soon as it is safe to do so, but need temporary relief'.[132]

5.57      The committee is aware that the Task Force on Displacement under the Warsaw International Mechanism for Loss and Damage associated with Climate Change Impacts is expected to present its recommendations in 2018.[133] Two new Global Compacts are being negotiated this year, one on safe, orderly and regular migration, and one on refugees.[134] Oxfam Australia suggested these negotiations provide an opportunity to 'strengthen rights and protection for those displaced across borders by disasters and in the context of climate change'.[135] It recommended the 2018 Global Compact on Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration should:

...develop new norms for addressing displacement in the context of climate change and gaps in legal protection, specifically: a two-year process to identify a protection and reception strategy that includes legal recognition and status for people forced to cross borders due to disasters, including extreme weather events; and a longer term process to address migration and displacement across borders when related to slow-onset impacts of climate change.[136]

Planned migration

5.58      Other proposals focused on how to provide voluntary migration opportunities for people who can no longer remain where they are due to the effects of climate change. ACFID stated that for PICs such as Tuvalu, Kiribati and Micronesia:

 ...the prospect of international migration is likely to begin to loom large in their thinking, although evidence to date shows that most households do not wish to migrate except as a last resort. Nevertheless, relocation will be necessary for some communities, and Australia must support strategies for safe and dignified mobility for these communities.[137]

5.59      The FRDP called on development partners to undertake 'studies and support the development of appropriate national strategies on relocation due to climate change and disaster impacts'.[138] Oxfam Australia recommended Australia:

Expand opportunities for safe and regular migration for those who may be forced to move permanently, including through bilateral and multi-country agreements, special visa categories and open-access arrangements between developed countries and countries facing a high risk of displacement.[139]

5.60      The Kaldor Centre suggested options could 'include bilateral or regional free movement agreements, training programs that prepare individuals to find work abroad, or the creation of special visa categories for people living in specifically identified regions'.[140] Peacifica agreed:

Australia should work with PICs on long term plans to support climate induced migration as a viable adaptive measure, including through appropriate education assistance and employment programs that meet both Australia's labour needs and the aspirations, labour rights and skills of PIC workers. With examples of current migration in the Pacific leading to positive outcomes, preemptive and considered migration strategies could be seen as a relevant adaption strategy for many remote Pacific communities.[141]

5.61      In its submission, the ANU Climate Change Institute noted that the New Zealand Government provides a permanent Pacific Access Category visa, allowing a quota of people from PICs severely affected by climate change to migrate to New Zealand.[142] It proposed this could serve as a model for Australia, and also suggested the development of an 'Atoll Access Agreement' with Kiribati, Tuvalu and Nauru.[143] Dr Bradshaw also supported Australia following New Zealand by establishing a special visa category.[144] Peacifica suggested '[i]nitiatives like the Pacific Seasonal Worker scheme and assistance for secondary and tertiary education for Pacific Island people should be expanded, with a variety of jobs and opportunities available'.[145] These options may align with Australia's existing commitments in the Pacific to:

 ...improve opportunities for growth and jobs and to strengthen the economic resilience of the region by increasing opportunities for labour mobility to satisfy unmet demand in our labour market, investing in skills, and helping countries to capture growth potential in sectors such as tourism.[146]

5.62      For example, the Australian Government is establishing a Pacific Labour Facility to 'connect Australian employers with Pacific workers and support the administration of the Pacific Labour Scheme'.[147] Oxfam Australia cautioned:

...existing labour migration schemes are not without problems...It is therefore vital that schemes or policies aiming to increase and enhance labour migration opportunities for people impacted by climate change are driven by the needs of families and communities, including women; have robust safeguards in place to prevent exploitation; and provide opportunities for permanent as well as seasonal migration.[148]

5.63      The Kaldor Centre also recommended that Australia facilitate planned relocations for communities prior to or following disasters, noting the 'vast majority of relocations will occur within countries, rather than across borders'.[149]

5.64      When asked by the committee if any planning is occurring to prepare for migrants in the context of climate change, including from Pacific Island countries, the Department of Home Affairs noted that it is 'participating in whole of government discussions on the impact of climate change in the Pacific and the implications for Pacific island countries'.[150]

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