By Esther Abram
The AEGN has held many events where our members meet with experts from a wide range of backgrounds. We have had the pleasure of hearing from scientists, environmental policy experts, economists and business people. However, it is very rare for someone with a defence background to have cause to speak with a philanthropic audience. This all changed recently and it was climate change that created the link.
On Monday 22 June, a dozen funders and trustees gathered over dinner to hear from retired UK Rear Admiral Neil Morisetti. The Rear Admiral was very clear in his message: climate change is a security issue and it is increasingly something that defence forces should be considering in their planning and resourcing.
Rear Admiral Neil Morisetti, former UK Government Climate and Energy Security Envoy, was in Australia to launch a report by the Centre for Policy Development. The Longest Conflict explores Australia’s preparedness for the coming security impacts of climate change and the implications for our defence forces. It finds that Australia is critically under-prepared for a coming climate security crisis bound to have disproportionate impacts in Australia and elsewhere in our immediate region. Click here to download the report.
Rear Admiral Morisetti’s presentation was both worrying and optimistic. On the one hand, climate change adds stress in parts of the world where people are already stressed and where governments are not able to support their populations. Globalisation means that flow on effects from climate events and insecurity can be wide. For instance, the riots leading up to the Arab Spring have been linked to drought-related wheat harvest failures and low wheat yields in Russia, Canada and Australia, which increased the price of wheat and resulted in food shortages.
Defence forces are less inclined to concern themselves with the politics of an issue like climate change, rather they just want to be as prepared to deal with security issues and manage risk. This includes considering and then planning for all the potential impacts of climate change be they major weather events or national security issues. They are also an apt market for the types of technological solutions which improve their operational capacity, while reducing greenhouse emissions. For example, security forces in war zones need to access electricity in areas where an energy grid might be unviable. Solar photovoltaic systems can provide reliable energy, without the need to store and carry fuel.
Rear Admiral Morisetti was asked his view of the role that philanthropy can play in responding to climate change and encouraging the Australian defence forces to increase their preparedness to address the impact of climate change. Firstly, he felt strongly the best way to influence defence was to broaden communications about climate change to ensure the whole community is engaging with the issue.
Defence members are also community members and the more they hear about the risks, the more they will be encouraged to respond. The Centre for Policy Development security initiative was supported by a number of AEGN members. It is an excellent example of strategic funding of rigorous research, followed by communications and engagement. The AEGN is proud to see our members making an impact on climate change by helping to bring a new and important perspective into the picture.