Climate Diplomacy and the Quad Summit

Shrila Pokhariyal
5th June 2022

Picture Courtesy: Reuters

On May 24, the leaders of India, the United States, Australia, and Japan met in Tokyo for the Quad Summit 2022. Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrived in Tokyo for a two-day visit, where he met with US President Joe Biden, Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, and newly elected Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, to discuss various issues like climate security, the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine, North Korea’s latest rise of missile testing, security of Indo-Pacific region and many more concerning issues. The summit took place at a critical and unprecedented juncture in world history. On the one hand, the Ukraine crisis persists, and on the other hand, China’s status as a great power especially in the Indo-Pacific region is dangerously rising. China intensified the situation further by holding a military drill with Russia, just when the Quad leaders were conducting the summit. Neither country attempted to conceal the activities; on the contrary, images were released.

The group has long been thought of, in Beijing, as an alliance aimed at containing China, but the non-military agenda of the last two meetings, Quad 2021 and 2022, show that it is much more than that. Convergent areas of cooperation such as counterterrorism exercises, connectivity and infrastructure projects, COVID-19 countermeasures, essential technologies, resilient supply chains, and climate change, among others, show that Quad is much more than that. Hence, this article attempts to highlight Quad’s multifaceted nature, its multi-layered and diverse goals for the region’s welfare.

It is widely assumed that the Quad would not engage in military action against any country. Nonetheless, the Chinese strategic community referred to it as an emerging “Asian NATO”. Instead, it is an informal strategic forum that holds semi-regular summits, information exchanges, and military exercises. The geographic position of each of the Quad nations – in various parts of the Indo-Pacific, with China in the middle – has alarmed Beijing, which worries about the threat to its geostrategic position. It has labelled the alliance as an anti-China “clique” representative of a “poisonous” Cold War attitude.

The previous two in-person summits of the Quad leaders have helped to improve the Quad’s image. Even though the Chinese have tried to sabotage the reputation of the grouping by claiming that it is just a military alliance to threaten Beijing, the recent agenda items undertaken by the grouping have proved that it has many non-military aims which go beyond threatening China. It is multifaceted and strives for a prosperous and peaceful Indo-Pacific region. Quad has demonstrated that it will not ‘dissipate like seafoam,’ as the Chinese have claimed earlier. Conversely, it has garnered attention, prominence, and impact.

One of the promising aspects of Quad’s agenda is climate change and climate security. The Quad countries reaffirmed their commitment to advance practical cooperation in dealing with climate change, firmly implementing the Paris Agreement, delivering COP26 objectives, and developing ongoing cooperation and progress since the last leaders’ meeting. In the 2021 Quad summit, leaders set their sights on climate ambition, such as developing 2030 targets for national emissions and alternative resources, clean-energy innovation and implementation, and adaptation, resilience, and preparedness.

This year, in expectation of successful outcomes, the Quad nations introduced the Quad Climate Change Adaptation and Mitigation Package (QCHAMP) with the concepts of mitigation and adaptation/resilience steered by the three driving forces of the Climate Working Group: climate ambition, clean energy, and adaptation/resilience. Q- CHAMP showcases mutual efforts in areas where the partnership was confirmed at the Quad leaders’ meetings in September 2021 and May 2022, respectively.

Among all the challenges of 21st century, climate change is the single greatest threat to the Pacific peoples’ livelihoods, security, and well-being. Recognising the seriousness of the threat, green shipping, power generation chains, disaster resilience, and the exchange of climate information services are some of the aspects that will be prioritized by the Quad leaders. In addition, the Quad will collaborate on emergency preparedness for severe weather events, mostly through the Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure.

According to a report published by the International Panel of Climate Change, between 1901 and 2018, the global mean sea level rose by 0.20 m. Between 1901 and 1971, the actual increase of sea-level rise was 1.3 mm per year, increasing to 1.9 mm per year between 1971 and 2006, and then to 3.7 mm per year between 2006 and 2018. Since at least 1971, human influence has most likely been the primary driver of these increments.

Since 1850, each of the last four decades has been warmer than the ten years before it. The average global temperature was 0.99°C higher during the first two decades of the 21st century (2001–2020) than in 1850–1900. From 2011 to 2020, the global surface temperature was 1.09°C higher than in 1850–1900, with larger rises on land (1.59°C) than over the ocean (0.88°C). The approximated rise in global surface temperature since the Fifth Assessment Report is primarily due to additional warming between 2003 and 2012 (+0.19°C).  Furthermore, methodological advances and new datasets contributed approximately 0.1°C to the Sixth Assessment Report’s revised assessment of warming.

Knowing all the implications of climate change on Indo-Pacific nations, these four big economies are taking adequate steps, trying to combat climate change. This showcases to the world that this informal alliance is more than what the Chinese media interprets it to be. Now, the Quad countries are responsible for delivering; it is up to them to sustain themselves during periods of strategic change in the international arena amid the growing ties between China and Russia, the ongoing Ukraine issue, and the development of new players in the power game.

This grouping would benefit if they were able to bring other regional actors into the picture. Quad will be assisted by regional actors in addressing the obstacles posed by climate change and other concerning factors. This will not only offer legitimacy to the grouping, but also prominence. The Indo-Pacific area is the most affected by climate change. Taking this into account and ensuring that the grouping does not confine its attention to the ascent of the dragon and its consequences for the Indo-Pacific area, the Quad can have a brighter and promising future.

*The Author is a Post Graduate Student at the Amity Institute of International Studies (AIIS), Amity University, Noida, India


Disclaimer: The Views in the Article are of the Author