Security implications of climate change in the Philippines

International Alert in cooperation with the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office, EU Brussels, and AIM Centre for Development Management, convened an expert roundtable discussion on the security implications of climate change in the Philippines on 24th April 2012. The forum provided a useful space for experts from across the region interested in the emerging security implications of current and future climate change, to explore appropriate practical policy and effective institutional responses.

At the event, Janani Vivekananda, Climate Change and Conflict Adviser at International Alert, presented reflections from Alert’s field research on conflict-sensitive response to climate change in South Asia. This presentation provided a micro-level perspective of the realities of how climate change interacts with other dimensions of community resilience in fragile contexts in Nepal.

Following this local level insight, John Pearson, Head of the British Government’s South East Asia Climate Change Network, offered a regional perspective, presenting the findings of the report ‘Impact of a global temperature rise of 4°C in Southeast Asia’. This presentation provided a valuable contextual backdrop to the ensuing debate, exploring how various projected climate impacts would affect vital dimensions of human development, such as livelihoods, agriculture and human health in the region.

The ensuing discussion amongst the group of over 30 experts from government, international donors, think tanks, academia, and development agencies, identified key challenges to dealing with climate change in fragile contexts in the region. One major challenge is that on the one hand environmental problems and resource scarcity requires strong government to manage the access to increasingly limited or contested resources. On the other hand, environmental problems and resource scarcity also undermine the capacities of governments to ensure strong management by putting pressure on socio-economic development and by increasing the risk of conflict and violence, leading to greater political instability and institutional weakness.

The discussants agreed that more capacity is needed to recognise and understand the linkages between climate change and conflict. For this, there needs to be more locally grounded research into the issue, but also more awareness-raising campaigns and dissemination of information.

However, ultimately it is important to recognise that technical solutions to climate change impacts will fall short if they don’t consider social and political dimensions in a conflict-sensitive way. The solution often is not an increase or protection of production, but rather the establishment of better systems and policies to ensure fair and just access to and/or distribution of resources.