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[All Politics is Global] Climate Change and the Cross-Links with Economic Security and Regional Collaboration

Climate change is the single greatest existential threat facing the Blue Pacific and the Indian Ocean, putting people and entire regional ecosystems at risk.



PM Fumio Kishida met with leaders of the Pacific Islands forum in February 2023. (©Prime Minister's Office)

Climate change is transforming the way we think about security. Although a non-traditional security challenge, its grave consequences are rapidly suggesting its transformation into a traditional security threat. 

In this reference, the UN Security Council debate in April 2007 was a landmark event. It marked the recognition of climate change as a core security issue. Moreover, it underlined that an increasingly unstable climate is no longer primarily an environmental or economic issue.

For any nation, small or big, the economy is an integral part of its national security. However, revisionist states, most glaringly, China, provide a case study in exploiting the economic dependencies of vulnerable smaller countries. In China's case, that begins with island and coastal states, where it asserts its interests and exerts unprecedented strategic pressure on their independent security policy choices.

Climate Change and Disasters 

Today, climate change is the single greatest existential threat facing the Blue Pacific and the Indian Ocean. The climate crisis not only threatens the livelihoods and well-being of its people but entire regional ecosystems. 

Urgent climate action is required to address the state of climate emergency in the Pacific region and Indian Ocean region (IOR) to limit the increase in global average temperature to 1.5 degrees Celsius. Meaningful mitigation action and international financial support are the needs of the hour. Regional climate priorities must be mobilized, be it in the IOR, or the Pacific Island countries.

The leaders of Japan and the Cook Islands held a bilateral summit in May 2023. (©Prime Minister's Office)

Economic and Climate Security Through Cooperation 

As the growing scale and outline of the linkages between economic security and climate change sharpen, Japan is anchoring the issue of economic security by turning its attention to this critical area. In May 2021, the Japanese parliament passed a law to promote economic security

Further, Tokyo has turned towards a comprehensive approach to address security threats with a strategy that considers transnational risks including climate change and infectious diseases. These require enhanced international cooperation for their mitigation.

There are also a range of roles for international institutions in addressing climate change-related threats. These go from developing the use of a multidimensional vulnerability index to strengthening disaster preparedness and response capacities. They are especially applicable in smaller oceanic/island regions that are threatened by climate change and disaster risks. 


In the case of the Pacific Islands, there are several ongoing efforts. One is the development of a Pacific humanitarian response coordination mechanism. Another would augment Pacific humanitarian warehousing capacities to improve the coordination and efficiency of regional and national disaster response efforts. 

Implementation of the Early Warnings for All initiative is also a commendable step that should be emulated in other vulnerable regions across the Indo-Pacific. It ensures that the habitat and population remain protected from hazardous weather, water, and climate events.

The Pacific Islands Forum countries stand out in yellow. Meanwhile, other Pacific Island nations also feature in this map of the region. (©PIF via Prime Minister's Office of Japan)

Collaborating for Regional Resilience

Supporting the sustainable, inclusive, and equitable management and development of lesser-developed coastal island nations, their fisheries, and other marine ecosystems and resources is also important. This requires essential support for their individual and regional economies and food security. Enhanced cooperation to safeguard the health and sustainability of the Pacific and Indian Oceans and their resources, including fisheries, is another urgent task.

The Pacific Island countries have urged that the limits of the Blue Pacific Continent be preserved. This is necessary to promote the stability, security, and predictability of maritime entitlements, irrespective of the impacts of climate change-related sea-level rise. 

Nations including the United States and Japan need to work in tandem with Pacific Island states toward the goal of lawfully establishing and maintaining baselines and outer limits of maritime zones. Once established, these must be protected from change irrespective of the impacts of climate change-related sea-level rise.

The International Law Commission Study Group under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) is currently working on several issues. Among them are sea-level rise in relation to international law and issues relating to statehood and the protection of persons affected by sea-level rise. These are highlighted because of their larger impact on statehood.

Strengthening climate resilience safeguards the well-being of populations, ecosystems, and economies against climate risk. Additionally, however, it promotes regional stability and security at large. 

It is more than time to prioritize fostering regional collaboration to enhance climate resilience in the Blue Pacific and Indian Ocean regions. Given the adverse effects of climate change, assisting particularly vulnerable developing and lesser-developed countries needs to be underlined. This is an essential step to safeguarding these nations from being preyed upon, economically and strategically, by a revisionist China.


Author: Dr Monika Chansoria
Dr Monika Chansoria is a Senior Fellow at The Japan Institute of International Affairs in Tokyo and the author of five books on Asian security. The views expressed here are those of the author and do not reflect the views of any organization with which the author is affiliated. Follow her column, "All Politics is Global" on JAPAN Forward, and on X (formerly Twitter).


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