Last week, the Quad Alliance met in Tokyo to discuss the most urgent matters impacting Indo-Pacific security, namely China's regional growth and the continuing impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. The Quad or Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, created in 2007 and re-established in 2017, is a security forum comprising of Australia, India, Japan and the USA, designed to better coalesce efforts in response to a more militarily and diplomatically assertive China. Through the carefully worded statements over Russia and Ukraine, it was the commitment to fight for climate resilience which caught many by surprise. This is in spite the hard security focus that the Quad was intended to have.
First chance for new Australian PM
The meeting in Tokyo represented the first chance for new Australian Prime Minister, Anthony Albanese, to prove his nation's revamped approach to climate action. Having defeated Liberal incumbent, Scott Morrison, known for his less-than-energetic climate focus, this was the first chance for him to show off his administration's more ambitious climate agenda. In the wake of his victory, he created a new, 'super' department for managing all climate change, energy, water and other environmental actions. Additionally, he promised to cut emissions by 43% by 2030, and recognized the need for Australia to take the responsibility in addressing climate security risks associated with the Pacific Islands. By 'declaring war' on climate change, he accelerated not only his country's commitment to climate action, but also put pressure on other Quad members to demonstrate the same urgency.
Climate as a topic of consolidation and coherence
In a Quad setting, any formal mention of Russia and the War in Ukraine was going to be risky given India's delicate balancing act. This is between maintaining its historically positive relations with Russia in an effort to enhance energy security and foster an internal balance against China and keeping its relations with the West strong to support its own regional security objectives. As such, despite this being the most pressing geopolitical issue of the day, the words Ukraine or Russia were absent from the formal press release.
In its stead, commitments to enhancing disaster relief and climate resilience became the most interesting result from the meeting. The Quad agreed to cooperate on disaster risk reduction for extreme weather events, including through the Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure (CDRI). This builds on the Quad’s joint session on strengthening Indo-Pacific infrastructure and communities at the International CDRI conference.
Moreover, through the Quad Humanitarian and Disaster Relief Mechanism, Quad partners will aim to coordinate and mobilize the four nations’ civilian-led disaster assistance efforts, with support from civil defence and military assets when needed, to respond to disasters in the Indo-Pacific. This serves the long-term goal of creating greater synergies in the realm of improving crisis preparedness and early warning.
To this end, the Quad Climate and Information Service Task Force, dedicated to integrating and facilitating climate information services to the broader Indo-Pacific. will convene other Indo-Pacific countries at the September Asia-Pacific Ministerial Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction in Brisbane, to share best practices and gauge user needs in the region.
The Quad will work to advance the development of clean hydrogen and clean ammonia fuels and launch a series of roundtables on mitigating methane emissions across liquified natural gas sectors. It will cooperate to enhance capacity in the broader Indo-Pacific region to participate in high-integrity carbon markets. There are also plans to incept Quad meetings for transportation and energy ministers from each country, with an aim to deploy clean hydrogen across the security infrastructure, minimise methane emissions, and develop a 10-Year Clean Energy Supply Chain Plan.
A nascent first step by New Delhi?
Whilst all of these commitments have only just been announced, this represents a huge step forward in the organization's efforts to combat climate change, whilst also demonstrating the growing pervasiveness of climate security as a topic which hard security forums and organizations are charged with as part of their competency.
It marks a shift in all Quad countries, including India, recognizing the security dimension of climate change, which might be related to the recent heat waves and climate risks becoming increasingly prevalent in the Bay of Bengal. This is potentially why there is a large focus on disaster reduction, given the exposure of India's Eastern coast to more volatile climatic phenomena. Whether this resembles a greater acknowledgement of the security dimension of climate security acceptance by the Indian establishment is yet to be seen, however, climate taking centre stage in a hard security forum is a positive sign for resilience activities globally.