Our changing environment and the fate of national defense
October-December 2017
By: Nicolas Regaud

Second, prevention and protection involves examining the possibilities of strengthening interdepartmental synergy in terms of risk analysis and foresight, so that assistance and cooperation policies are integrated within a comprehensive approach. In particular, this means studying the vulnerability of our major technical infrastructure for transportation, energy and communications to large-scale climate events and rising sea levels, and anticipating the impact of a rise in the number and intensity of natural disasters on our human and material resources. As a recent example of interdepartmental cooperation, I will mention a project supported by the French Ministry of Defense, in cooperation with the Natural History Museum and the Department of the Environment, for analyzing trans-Pacific migratory bird behavior, which is likely to bring vital pieces of information complementary to satellite data, thus contributing early warning tools against cyclones.

To help reach all of these objectives, the French Ministry of Defense is supporting a four-year, approximately $1.5 million study program involving two dozen climate scientists and experts on regional and defense issues. All information will be shared publicly online and with other French government agencies.

Combating climate change and its security consequences cannot be carried out in isolation in each individual country. That is why regional and international cooperation is of the utmost importance. During the past decade, the international community has increasingly explored links between climate change and international security. The UN Security Council, the European Union and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe have taken this issue up, as well as the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Regional Forum, the African Union and the G7, among others.

But the climate issue has mostly been approached by these organizations from the angle of human-security, diplomacy and development – rarely touching upon defense. Regional defense organizations such as NATO and the European Defense Agency have developed a more defense-oriented approach, but their work has been essentially focused on the dimension of “green defense”: energy security, alternative fuels, eco-designed equipment and so forth.

A third dimension lies in the development of exchanges and cooperation within subregional defense forums and among militaries. This in particular is important in the Asia-Pacific, through workshops and seminars organized under the framework of the Asean Regional Forum, by the US Pacific Command and also by France recently. In June 2016, the French command in French Polynesia organized a seminar in Papeete on climate change implication for defense, with participants coming from almost all the Western Pacific countries. Another seminar was organized in Paris that November for senior civilian officials and military officers from the Indo-Asia-Pacific region, and a conference on environmental security was organized in April in Ho Chi Minh City with senior officials from Vietnam, Asean, the European Union and France.

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