Why it matters
“As competition for influence in the region grows, the Government will increase Australia’s efforts to ensure we are a leading security, economic and development partner for Southeast Asia.”
— JOINT STATEMENT, ASEAN-AUSTRALIA SPECIAL SUMMIT, 2018
The vision in practice
Domestic Political Vision
Overcome ambivalence and inconsistency around Australian climate and energy policy. Lack of policy certainty for energy market operators inhibits their ability to effectively plan projects and seek market opportunities within the region.
Climate Risk Assessment
Work with ASEAN on a climate risk assessment for the region. It is becoming increasingly problematic to base disaster management strategies, policy assumptions, operational arrangements and funding on the historical experience of disasters in a stable climate. States need integrated national assessments of climate risk and its implications for poverty, inequality and instability. Australia can be a partner in developing an assessment of climate risk to reflect the changing nature of disasters, building on initiatives like Australia’s National Recovery and Resilience Agency.
Engage with Southeast Asian states to build capacity for disaster preparedness. This will involve working with existing mechanisms and guidelines as a pathway to better forward strategies for prevention, such as the cooperative protocols essential to partner with Southeast Asian response teams and negotiating the pre-positioning of materials.
This will require enhancing the diplomatic buy-in from Southeast Asian countries for Australia to have legitimacy as a significant humanitarian partner in the region.
Defence should add to its operational level expertise by working preventively with the command level at ASEAN to get policy principles in place. Australia can draw on the example of its engagement with the Pacific Islands Forum in assisting with policy settings.
There is also great potential for sharing new technologies for weather prediction, modelling and geo-spatial mapping of hazards developed by Australian institutions such as the CSIRO and Bureau of Meteorology. The upcoming Asia-Pacific Ministerial Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction (APMCDRR) in Brisbane in the second half of 2022 could showcase these collaborations.
Develop an Australia-Southeast Asia Climate Partnership bringing together existing and new initiatives for practical action including in technology, water, energy and infrastructure.
Recent case studies include Australia’s Statement on Climate Action pledging $500 million to support Southeast Asian countries through better management of forests, land and agriculture and the Australia-Vietnam Joint Statement on Commitment to Practical Climate Action.
Australia can aspire to become a hub of training for climate change adaptation and mitigation. It should look at how it can get the next generation of climate change experts in Southeast Asia to study and partner with Australia. This can be done through university-to-university and institution-to- institution links, including through programs like the New Colombo Plan as a vehicle for greater people-to-people connections around climate change.
Green Export Promotion
Compile and promote up-to-date assessments of regional needs and Australia’s opportunity to supply these, including in critical minerals, green steel, green aluminium and hydrogen.
Work with regional bodies on related policy issues, including standards, certification and regulation.
ASEAN Electricity Market
Assist with development of a region-wide ASEAN electricity market to provide green energy pathways to meet Southeast Asia’s overriding need for energy security. This will require surmounting existing barriers, including vested interests, to create legitimacy for the concept of a regional framework.
Australia has expertise around energy market design. It has limited leverage but does have access to the ASEAN Secretariat and motivated member governments can humbly share its expertise. Australia should identify the countries that are most aligned with its aims and work outwards on a forward-looking program.
The Australia Institute
Australian Red Cross
Perth USAsia Centre
Australian Council for International Development
Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI)
Australian Civil-Military Centre
International Development Contractors Community (IDCC)
Melissa Conley Tyler
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons license. You can reprint or republish with attribution.
You can cite this paper as: Asia-Pacific Development, Diplomacy & Defence Dialogue, What does it look like for Australia to be a Partner in Climate Leadership in Southeast Asia. (Canberra 2022): www.asiapacific4d.com
Photo on this page © Jhay Baniaga.
This paper is the product of the Asia-Pacific Development, Diplomacy & Defence Dialogue’s inaugural program, ‘Shaping a shared future — deepening Australia’s influence in Southeast Asia and the Pacific’, funded by the Australian Civil-Military Centre.