January 12, 2012

Climate Change Cooperation in the South China Sea Region

Building on
yesterday’s blog post with recommendations for how U.S. policymakers can
encourage cooperation around energy in the South China Sea, here are some quick
thoughts on steps policymakers should take to help states in the region adapt
to climate change, which, as I point out in my chapter on natural resources in
our new report, Cooperation from Strength: The United
States, China and the South China Sea
, exacerbates the resource issues
countries must confront. 

speaking, the United States must help states in the South China Sea region
adapt to climate change by supporting humanitarian and disaster relief training,
science and technology sharing and climate finance programs. Many South China Sea states are
preparing to deal with the effects of climate change, including agricultural
destruction, flooding, sea level rise and more frequent and severe storms. With
the lack of U.S. legislation to curb greenhouse gas emissions, there is an
increasing view that the United States is not a credible leader to help these
states confront the climate challenges that await them. Yet, the United States
does not need to pass “Cap & Trade” or other controversial legislation in
order to help states adapt to global climate change.

To begin,
the United States can help South China Sea countries develop more robust
climate change impact assessments for the region. Many states in the region are
trying to learn more about how they will be affected by climate change. As a
result, there is a significant opportunity for the United States to bolster its
science and technology cooperation with states such as Vietnam and others that
are making climate change an increasing focus of their bilateral relationships.
The United States should leverage its National Labs and others in academia to
help support and develop sound climate science that will provide better
fidelity about how climate change is projected to manifest itself. Better
projections will enable states to become more resilient, which should help
dampen political and social disruptions that could cause instability in the

At the
same time, the United States should be prepared to take some immediate steps to
support climate adaptation directly. Engaging in combined humanitarian and
disaster relief training, for example, is an opportunity for the United States
to help those vulnerable states build the capacities to respond to natural
disasters.  In doing so, the United
States will benefit by developing interoperability between those militaries,
which could serve as a cornerstone for deeper diplomatic and military
relationships in the future. 
Moreover, bilateral science and technology sharing arrangements that
promote the transfer of climate adaptation technologies like climate-resistant
seed varietals for agricultural production and robust materials for
infrastructure development that are designed to withstand more intense and frequent
storms should be pursued to help states adapt to climate change.

the United States should meet already-agreed to levels of climate financing
adopted under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. As a result of the
2010 UN climate change conference in Cancún (and recommitted in 2011 in Durban,
South Africa), states agreed to mobilize $100 billion per year by 2020 to
assist developing countries in adapting to climate change effects. The United
States should agree to support the climate finance fund in order to help those
vulnerable South China Sea states develop the climate adaptation programs the
fund is intended to support.