Rising sea levels in Southeast Asia and the Pacific mean collaboration on maritime order is essential.
The recently published Sixth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change stressed the urgency of adapting to and mitigating climate change in coastal regions to “prevent a further acceleration of sea level rise beyond of 2050”. Climate change is likely to have significant implications for maritime security, particularly for coastal states and archipelagos in Southeast Asia and the Pacific, where existing challenges will be exacerbated.
According to International Military Council on Climate and Security, climate change could alter the dynamics of security in the Indo-Pacific region, with an increase in piracy and transnational crime caused by climate displacement, poverty and overfishing due to pollution, warming and climate change. acidification of the oceans. This could overwhelm existing state resources and maritime security capabilities and increase the need for additional ocean management and policing.
In terms of the region’s population, the United Nations Refugee Agency predicts that sea level rise will create a humanitarian crisis. Internal Displacement Observatory estimates that 65.9 million people were displaced due to natural disasters in Southeast Asia and the Pacific between 2008 and 2020. The United Nations estimates that by 2050, the Indo-Pacific could host up to 89 million climate refugees, most of whom will come from Southeast Asia and the Pacific.
Climate change will also impact state sovereignty, with changing coastlines and maritime borders due to sea level rise. These changes will impact the UN Convention Exclusive Economic Zones. on the law of the sea (UNCLOS) and on the definition of maritime zones. The maritime borders are vital to ensure access to resources and browsing rights. In Kiribati and the Marshall Islandssteps are already being taken to combat sea level rise. In Tuvalu, two of its largest islands are vanish.
The blue economy, which integrates renewable energy, fisheries, shipping, tourism and waste management, is vital to economic security and livelihoods in Southeast Asia and the Pacific. Increased flooding and ocean acidification, for example, threaten the fishing industry on which 200 million people in the Indo-Pacific depend for food and employment. Tuna fishing alone in the Pacific is a US$6 billion industry.
Southeast Asia has been ranked as one of the most vulnerable regions to climate change, with all countries in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) except Singapore , listed in the top 50 of the countries most affected by the climate. between 1997 and 2016. The top ten included Myanmar, the Philippines, Vietnam and Thailand. Indonesia has the second longest coastline in the world and Jakarta is the fastest sinking city. Parts of Ho Chi Minh City, Manila and Bangkok will be under water by 2050.
Despite this, Southeast Asian states have faced critical for climate inaction and failure to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement. This could be an opportunity for Southeast Asia and the Pacific to collaborate on climate-related maritime security issues. ASEAN’s maritime security capabilities are stronger than those of the Pacific, and Pacific islands are adept in climate change activism. It is possible that the two regions will cooperate to strengthen their own maritime security and that of the Indo-Pacific.
Along with climate change and maritime security, the two regions manage the geostrategic competition between China and the United States. In times of geopolitical rivalry, the security concerns of small states must be heard among those of large states. For Southeast Asian states, the importance of ASEAN’s centrality in the broader Indo-Pacific regional architecture is key to ensuring that their concerns are heard. In the Pacific, attempts to reconceptualize the island states of the region as a collective under the “blue pacific continentThe strategy demonstrates a commitment to addressing long-term climate challenges and giving greater weight to Pacific voices.
Currently, there is little collaboration between ASEAN and the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) on climate change and maritime security. Invitations to ASEAN and PIF meetings should be extended to regional counterparts to ensure a truly regional approach to these issues. Dialogues at Track I and II levels between Southeast Asian and Pacific states would ensure greater collaboration on common climate threats to maritime security.
Southeast Asia and the Pacific could also unite to defend “fixed” maritime borders as sea levels rise. ASEAN maritime law has focused on strengthening UNCLOS to handle territorial disputes in the region, particularly in the South China Sea. At the 2021 PIF meeting, leaders committed to Declaration on the preservation of maritime areas in the face of sea level rise linked to climate change. The declaration recognizes the importance of UNCLOS in determining maritime zones and advocates fixing maritime borders so that they are not reduced due to climate-induced territorial erosion.
Indo-Pacific stakeholders, such as Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States, have an important role to play in bringing the two regions closer together. All three states have climate change programs in Southeast Asia and the Pacific, but more exchange between programs will ensure a holistic and regional approach to climate-related maritime security issues.
The effects of climate change on maritime security in Southeast Asia and the Pacific will challenge international legal norms, destabilize the blue economy, threaten livelihoods and lead to mass displacement. Regions should team up to tackle these cross-border issues, share ocean resource management advice, and strengthen the UNCLOS-led maritime order.
Without a truly regional approach that includes the most affected coastal states and archipelagos in Southeast Asia and the Pacific, the Indo-Pacific will be unprepared for the impacts of climate change across its vast maritime domains.
This item is part of a series examine regional perspectives on maritime security. This project is led by La Trobe Asia, Kings College London and Griffith Asia Institute with support from the UK High Commission in Canberra