The Indo-Pacific Does not Simply Want Cash to Cope With Local weather Change. It Wants a Full Plan.

April 28, 2021, 10:14 a.m.

Last week, US President Joe Biden convened 40 heads of state for a virtual climate summit of heads of state and government. In addition to the notable attendance of Vladimir Putin from Russia and Xi Jinping from China, the guest list also included a strong list of Indo-Pacific countries. Biden was joined by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina from Bangladesh, Prime Minister Lotay Tshering from Bhutan and Secretary General Nguyen Phu Trong from Vietnam.

As part of the United States’ official re-entry into the global climate dialogue, Biden discussed ways to strengthen global capacities to protect nations from the effects of climate change, address the global security threats posed by climate change, and possible solutions to achieve net zero emissions by up to 2050.

Biden’s invitation to the Indo-Pacific states particularly reflects their risk status. The region is warming up rapidly and weather extremes are already displacing communities and increasing conflicts over resources. The situation is ripe for violence and if the region is not adapted to climate change it risks becoming a breeding ground for major security threats.

That’s probably why, on the first day of the dialogue, Biden announced his administration’s efforts to double US public climate finance for developing countries by 2024, and pointed out the urgent need to increase money for adaptation and resilience in those countries . The success of US climate policy depends on Biden’s ability to implement these plans.

If he’s serious, he needs a great strategy that includes climate change, alliances and a growing challenge from the great power in the Indo-Pacific. Although US-led international institutions are burdened by the arbitrary approach of the previous administration, they can once again serve as levers for the intertwining challenges of poverty, climate change and pandemic global insecurity.

This brings us to the question of how Biden’s climate ambition can be turned into a great strategy for the region.

For inspiration he could look to the US Marshall Plan in Western Europe after the devastation of World War II. The courageous strategy, which provided more than $ 15 billion to rebuild the continent, is widely accepted as the catalyst for the birth of NATO and for strengthening the United States’ alliance with European countries. The Marshall Plan helped rehabilitate the economies of 16 European countries and promoted stable conditions in which democratic institutions could flourish.

A similarly bold strategy in the Indo-Pacific region could have profound and lasting effects. As in 1947, when the Economic Cooperation Administration, a predecessor of the US Agency for International Development, jointly administered the Marshall Plan with the Committee on European Economic Cooperation, Biden must lead the newly formed US International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) its lending capacity of USD 60 billion to regions in the direct crosshairs of poverty, insecurity and climate change.

For the Marshall Plan, the Committee on European Economic Cooperation was a joint European conference that set priorities for the post-war recovery of the European economy. It consisted of delegates from 16 European nations and met in Paris. This committee later established the Organization for European Economic Cooperation, which allowed countries to control the administration and distribution of Marshall funds themselves.

For robust climate protection measures, active regional cooperation organizations like the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, as well as dying organizations like the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation, are likely partners. In addition to the DFC, a committee of the Indo-Pacific states could help set the priorities for a climate strategy and support the management of US climate investments. A bold strategy would increase the municipal capacity of nations to provide essential services and expand investment in response systems and climate disaster prevention.

Together, the United States and a group of Indo-Pacific nations could do a great deal of good. Establishing a platform for others to join will encourage greater international cooperation. The so-called Annex II states within the meaning of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change can use such a mechanism to meet their own financial responsibility. In the meantime, initiatives such as the Green Climate Fund and a proposal to link debt relief with investing in climate change at the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund should be fully implemented. And the G-20 must take into account the central role of climate change in their deliberations. A newly designed trans-Pacific partnership could also focus on investing in climate change as part of regional trade.

Consistent with the success of the United States in Europe in the mid-twentieth century, an Indo-Pacific climate strategy will promote and sustain US leadership while promoting critical alliances in the region. China currently has massive economic influence in the region. From infrastructure projects to threats restricting access to Chinese markets, China is using its tools in the region to compete with the US. And if Washington is committed to diplomacy in the Indo-Pacific, Biden must cultivate deeper ties there beyond Japan and India to include marginalized nations such as Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Vietnam, backed by a robust economic strategy.

The then British Prime Minister Winston Churchill described the decision of the US Secretary of State George Marshall to rebuild Europe as “the highest level of statecraft”. By investing in the future of Europe, the United States helped lay the foundations that enabled the European Union to become one of the largest global economies and a political force in the international order. Addressing the needs of the nations most vulnerable to the effects of climate change will be a similar act of statecraft for US foreign policy in the 21st century.