Australia is facing world disaster from climate change, with the Australian government’s first foreign policy white paper in a decade stating the environmental degradation and the demand for sustainable food sources undermines stability in fragile countries.
The new white paper released on Thursday warns of disruptive effects of climate change in Australia’s immediate region, with many small island states set to be “severely affected in the long term” and disaster relief needed in the coming decade.
It notes there will be a rise in the demand for water and food, following intense pressure on the world’s oceans and forests.
It also claims climate change and environmental pressure could lead to conflict and irregular migration, impacting Australia’s economic interests.
The white paper makes a strong case for United States to remain engaged in the region, despite challenges for Australia and the world posed by Donald Trump’s presidency, claiming the postwar alliance with the US is “central to Australia’s security and sits at the core of our strategic and defence planning.”
The document makes the case that it is in Australia’s interests to pursue a cooperative relationship with China, but it is critical of China’s military posturing.
“Australia is particularly concerned by the unprecedented pace and scale of China’s activities,” the paper says.
“Australia opposes the use of disputed features and artificial structures in the South China Sea for military purposes.”
“Elsewhere in the region, Australia is concerned about the potential for the use of force or coercion in the East China Sea and Taiwan Strait.”
With strategic tensions in the region increasing, the white paper predicts a more activist Australian engagement with Indo-Pacific nations including Japan, India, Indonesia and Korea and more active support for Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) countries.
A “Grave and growing” threat from North Korea is also a concern with the Pyongyang’s actions the most immediate security challenge for the region.
It notes politics in some countries have become more fragmented and “volatile,” with nationalism and protectionist sentiment on the rise, with global governance and the rules-based order contested.
“We will be living in a more contested and competitive world,” foreign affairs minister Julie Bishop said on Thursday.
“Technological advances will disrupt the way we live and work and interact. There will be shifts in relative power between nations and the international rules-based order will continue to be challenged by some nations seeking short-term gain.”
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said the white paper provided a “framework for securing our own future, while sharing the burden of collective leadership with trusted partners and friends.”