Conclusions and recommendations
The committee believes this was a useful inquiry to investigate the ability
of Commonwealth agencies to respond to climate change in the area of national
security. The committee notes the consensus from the evidence that climate
change is exacerbating threats and risks to Australia's national security. These
include sea level rise, bushfires, droughts, extreme rainfall events, and
higher-intensity cyclones. The committee was reassured that climate risks are being
factored into preparedness policies and procedures at the whole of government
level and by individual agencies, including Defence. There are well-established
arrangements for states, territories and the Commonwealth to respond to
domestic weather events and for the Commonwealth to provide regional
humanitarian and disaster relief assistance (HADR).
Climate change is also adversely affecting other aspects of Australia's
national security, including the economy, infrastructure, and community health
and well-being. The committee did not receive substantial evidence on these
matters, though some are being considered through other processes, such as Senate
committee inquiries into the financial risk associated with carbon for
businesses and the impacts of climate change on the built environment. In
addition, a framework for a national strategy on climate, health and well-being
was also recently released. The committee's conclusions and recommendations focus on the areas where the
committee received most evidence, including Commonwealth coordination,
leadership, reducing climate risks, and building resilience in the region.
Commonwealth government coordination
Climate-related risks affect many government portfolios, including those
dealing with domestic, regional and international security. Therefore, the
committee supports the implementation of a whole of government approach to
responding to climate risks at the Commonwealth level.
Whole of government approach
The Commonwealth whole of government approach is facilitated through the
Secretaries Board on Climate Risk and the Disaster and Climate Resilience
Reference Group (Reference Group).
The Reference Group is co-chaired by the Department of the Environment and
Energy and the Department of Home Affairs, and Commonwealth agencies are
represented at the deputy or first assistant secretary level. The Reference
Group is considering the strategic implications of climate change for Commonwealth
agencies, policies and programs. It is also facilitating engagement with the
Commonwealth's expert science and research organisations, including the Bureau
of Meteorology, Geoscience Australia and the CSIRO.
The committee supports the availability of robust climate data, science
and expertise to facilitate modelling and planning to ensure preparedness. The
committee was encouraged to hear the Reference Group is also engaging with external
stakeholders such as the insurance industry and business groups on climate risk
modelling and data. The committee emphasises that addressing the risks of
climate change in the community involves not just Commonwealth Government
agencies so it supports engagement with other stakeholders to facilitate the
exchange of information and data.
The committee recommends that the Commonwealth Government commits
to providing ongoing adequate funding for climate science and research
Coordination with states and
The committee also recognises that broader engagement on climate
security by all Australian governments is required. Climate change is affecting
areas of responsibility shared between the Commonwealth, states, territories
and local governments, including emergency management. The committee notes
there are well established policies and procedures between the Commonwealth and
states and territories in relation to emergency management. However, evidence
suggested that a new high-level taskforce or working group could undertake
scenario planning and guide a coordinated national response to climate-related national
security risks. The committee view is that at this time these issues are
adequately considered by existing arrangements including the Council of
Australian Governments (COAG) ministerial councils, and supporting senior
officials committees such as the Australia-New Zealand Emergency Management
Commonwealth government strategic
planning and reporting
Climate and national security risks are identified in various national
policy documents, including the 2011 National Strategy for Disaster
Resilience, 2015 National Climate Resilience and Adaptation Strategy,
the 2016 Defence White Paper and the 2017 Foreign Policy White
Paper. Evidence suggested a white paper specifically on the national
security implications of climate change could guide a coordinated whole of
government response to climate risks, including extreme weather events,
regional instability, and broader threats to the economy, infrastructure, and
community health and well-being. The committee agrees that in order to ensure
the national security aspects of climate change are being considered from a
whole of government perspective that a white paper or other planning document
should be developed.
The committee recommends that the Commonwealth Government develop
a climate security white paper, or similar planning document, to guide a
coordinated whole of government response to climate change risks.
Although the committee did not receive a large amount of evidence on the
issue of health and well-being, the committee notes that in 2017 the Climate
and Health Alliance released a Framework for a National Strategy on Climate,
Health and Well-being for Australia. The Framework seeks to guide
government policy and decision making processes in addressing climate change
and associated health impacts. Developed following consultation with a range of
stakeholders including health professionals and experts in climate change and
health, the Framework is structured around seven key areas of policy action and
identifies a number of policy directions that could be adopted by governments
across all levels.
The committee notes that although states and territories have
responsibility for a range of health services, it is the Commonwealth
Government that has responsibility for the national perspective on health and
climate change. The committee suggests the Commonwealth draw on this framework
to develop a national strategy on climate, health and well-being.
The committee recommends that the Commonwealth Government develop
a National Climate, Health and Well-being Plan based on the Framework for a
National Strategy on Climate, Health and Well-being for Australia.
The committee understands that climate risks are considered as part of
agency risk assessments, and supports ongoing preparedness activities and
scenario planning. The committee notes modelling and planning is critically
important in relation to domestic emergency management. Emergency Management
Australia—part of the Department of Home Affairs—is working with Defence and
other stakeholders to understand climate risks and prepare to respond to
extreme weather events in Australia. The committee heard examples of how
arrangements can be adapted to respond to the forecast level of risk. For instance,
the level of fire risk in each state and territory is monitored, and additional
firefighting aircraft leased through the national and international markets if
it appears fires in multiple states could occur concurrently following
particularly dry periods.
Defence-specific planning and reporting
The committee notes that Defence also has modelling and planning
processes that inform preparation for military missions, HADR operations,
capability life cycle and estate and environmental management. The committee
heard that Defence had undertaken preliminary investigations into how climate
risks can affect the Defence estate. While this work remains classified, the
committee notes that this year the United States released the Climate-Related
Risk to DoD Infrastructure Initial Vulnerability Assessment Survey (SLVAS)
Report. The committee suggests Defence consider making an unclassified
version of its work publicly available in order to assist other affected local
The committee recommends the Department of Defence consider
releasing an unclassified version of the work undertaken by Defence to identify
climate risks to its estate.
The committee notes that climate risks are considered in strategic
planning relating to Defence, including the 2016 Defence White Paper and
the Chief of the Defence Force (CDF) annual preparedness directive to the
Australian Defence Force. The preparedness directive considers the full range
of security capabilities and risks, outlines the level of readiness, and guides
Defence activities. The committee notes advice that the CDF adjusts preparedness
requirements in accordance with the security environment and assessment of
risks, including climate-related risks. The committee supports this regular consideration
of climate risks, and notes it will be important as climate-related threats
continue to increase demands for a wide spectrum of Defence responses,
including domestic disaster recovery, regional HADR and stabilisation operations.
Ensuring Defence preparedness
Modelling indicates a manageable increase in Defence's climate-related
commitments in the near term. However, climate change is increasing the
likelihood of concurrent events, such as a combination of extreme weather
events, HADR and military missions requiring responses simultaneously. Defence
identified that higher levels of commitment and the risk of simultaneous
disasters could create concurrency pressures and sustainment cost issues from
as early as the middle of the next decade, or earlier if climate security
threats accelerate. The committee is aware similar pressures are likely to
affect other agencies, such as the Australian Federal Police.
Some submissions suggested that Defence should respond to these
pressures by reforming its structure to equally prioritise warfighting and
non-warfighting responsibilities. While the committee acknowledges war fighting
will remain critical for defence, it also recognises the existing and emerging
pressures to national security posed by climate change, and that its force
structure is likely to change over time in response to such pressures. In this
light, the committee notes that capabilities acquired to meet its war fighting
role should where possible be adaptable and able to be used to respond to the
effects of climate change such as additional HADR operations. The committee
supports Defence investment in versatile and adaptable assets and ongoing training
of personnel to provide HADR within Australia and the region when required, while
maintaining its warfighting role.
The committee understands that the National Aerial Firefighting Centre
(NAFC) currently leases firefighting aircraft from commercial operators through
public tender processes. The committee heard evidence that this currently
represents the most flexible and cost effective model. However, the committee
notes climate change and other factors may alter market conditions in the
future, and suggests this should be considered.
The committee recommends the National Aerial Firefighting Centre
undertake a cost benefit analysis to assess whether leasing arrangements or
government ownership of firefighting aircraft will provide the best value and
support to firefighters and communities in the future.
The committee heard concerns that there is an absence of dedicated
senior climate security leaders across the Commonwealth, leaving the whole of
government response fragmented. Suggestions included establishing a climate
security envoy with responsibility for international engagement, similar to the
former United Kingdom Climate and Energy Security Envoy. Others supported the
creation of a climate security adviser within the Home Affairs Portfolio to
facilitate interagency coordination on national climate resilience. The
committee notes there is already an array of leadership groups responsible for aspects
of climate security policy, including the Reference Group and ANZEMC. The
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) has an Ambassador for the
Environment. The committee suggests that, once the Home Affairs Portfolio has
been fully established and operational for a time, the need for a national
climate security position should be considered.
The committee recommends that the Commonwealth Government
consider the need for a dedicated climate security leadership position in the Home
Affairs Portfolio to facilitate coordination on climate resilience issues,
including disaster risk reduction, infrastructure planning, community health
and well-being, and emergency management.
The committee also heard proposals for elevating leadership on climate
security within Defence. The recently-established Climate and Security Adviser
role is held by a Colonel in the reserves. However, Defence emphasised staff at
higher levels also share responsibility for climate security policy, including
the Head Force Design, who examines climate change in the context of investment
decisions. The Vice Chief of the Defence Force considers climate security when
developing preparedness statements for the CDF, and participates in the
Secretaries Board on Climate Risk. The Deputy Secretary, Strategic Policy and
Intelligence, is the Defence lead on climate change policy and manages Defence
contributions to the whole of government agenda. The committee notes that
responsibility for responding to climate change security risks is currently
shared between a range of leaders within Defence and suggests a dedicated leadership
role could assist in Defence's planning and delivery of domestic and
international HADR as demands and concurrency pressures increase over time.
The committee recommends that the Department of Defence create a dedicated
senior leadership position to assist in planning and managing the delivery of
domestic and international humanitarian assistance and disaster relief as
pressures increase over time.
Increasing climate security
The committee notes recent efforts to improve climate security
capability and knowledge through the development of short courses and
partnerships between Defence and educational institutions. The committee
supports the continuation and expansion of these courses and partnerships
across Commonwealth agencies.
The committee recommends that national security agencies increase
their climate security knowledge and capability by encouraging participation of
staff in available courses.
Reducing climate risks
Disaster risk reduction
The committee recognises domestic disaster management is primarily a
responsibility of state and territory governments. However, the Commonwealth
will be required to continue supporting states affected by disasters in the
context of climate change. Through the Natural Disaster Relief and Recovery
Arrangements (NDRAA) the Commonwealth Government provides financial assistance
directly to the states and territories to assist them with the costs associated
with disaster relief and recovery assistance measures.
The committee is aware that new federal funding arrangements for
recovery following disasters are expected to be implemented from July 2018.
The committee is also aware that these new arrangements will provide incentives
for states to deliver reconstruction projects more efficiently so that
efficiencies can be put towards mitigation activities and projects.
While the committee supports the Commonwealth initiatives to support
resilience building outlined in chapter 3, it notes that after being extended
for 12 months in May 2017, the National Partnership Agreement on Natural
Disaster Resilience (NPANDR) is due to cease on 30 June 2018. The committee has no information on whether the new arrangements are intended
to replace the NPANDR. The committee would consider the conclusion of the NPANDR
as premature and urges the government to further extend this agreement and
review the need for it after the new arrangements are well established and data
is available on the funding made available for mitigation activities.
The committee recommends the Commonwealth Government extend the
National Partnership Agreement on Natural Disaster Resilience and review after
the new funding arrangements are well established and data is available on the
funding available for mitigation activities.
The committee views climate change mitigation through emissions
reductions as a fundamental part of protecting Australia's national security.
Australia is party to international climate mitigation agreements including the
2015 Paris Agreement. The Government has committed to reducing greenhouse gas
emissions to 26–28 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030. While some of
the effects of climate change are already being experienced, the committee
heard that stronger emissions reductions can contribute to reducing future risks.
To address this, witnesses provided a range of suggestions for different
national emissions reductions targets in the evidence. The committee recognises
that senators and parties hold different views on the appropriate level of
The committee supports Defence's use of renewable energy and alternative
fuel sources, and notes Defence provides information on its environmental
performance and changes to energy consumption in its annual report. The
committee sees an opportunity for Defence to enhance this reporting by setting
clear goals against which progress can be measured.
The committee recommends that the Department of Defence establish
emissions reductions targets across stationary and operational energy use, and
report against these in its annual report.
The committee notes that, in addition to reducing the risks of climate
change, adopting a greater diversity of energy sources will improve Defence's
energy security and resilience by reducing its reliance on external energy
Building resilience in the region
The committee is concerned that the consequences of climate change are
exacerbating the fragility of Australia's allies, including Pacific Island
countries (PICs). The committee notes the Commonwealth Government has committed
to some important regional resilience initiatives, including supporting the
implementation of the Framework for Resilient Development in the Pacific and developing the Australia Pacific Climate Change Action Program.
Australia has also committed $1 billion over five years from
the existing aid budget to build climate change resilience and reduce emissions in developing countries. The committee supports the
efforts of DFAT to align Australia's development assistance with the priorities
of partner countries and communities, focus on human security, and empower
groups disproportionately affected by climate change. The committee notes that
climate finance is being embedded in existing programs, for example, by 'climate
proofing' infrastructure projects such as roads. The committee also recognises Australia's
positive contribution to the Green Climate Fund (GCF), and the ongoing work
undertaken by DFAT to integrate climate finance into the Australian aid
program. As Co-Chair of the GCF, Australia is supporting PICs to access
resources for climate mitigation and adaptation.
The committee agrees that funding for climate mitigation, adaptation and
disaster risk reduction measures represents an investment in the security and
stability of Australia's region. Avoiding food and water insecurity and
protecting critical infrastructure and institutions is likely to reduce future
aid requirements and Defence costs to Australia, and help minimise population
displacement. Therefore, the committee considers that public climate aid and
finance contributions should be increased, in addition to the existing development
assistance budget, to the extent that financial circumstances allow.
The committee recommends the Commonwealth Government provide further
funding for international climate adaptation and disaster risk reduction
measures, in addition to the existing aid budget, to the extent that financial
The committee emphasises that protecting Australia's national security
in the context of climate change requires not only the whole of government
approach being taken by Commonwealth Government agencies but also the ongoing
cooperation of communities, academia, the private sector and all levels of
government, as well as Australia's regional and international partners.
Senator Alex Gallacher
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