Climate Security Elements of the America COMPETES Act 

By Elsa Barron

The America Creating Opportunities for Manufacturing, Pre-Eminence in Technology and Economic Strength Act of 2022, or the America COMPETES Act,  passed in the House of Representatives on Friday. The bill is focused on U.S. competition with China and includes several provisions that acknowledge the risks posed by climate change and are designed to help the U.S. prepare for and respond to its impact on security and competitiveness. The inclusion of these provisions demonstrates an understanding of climate change as a shaping security threat and reflects many of the recommendations in our Climate Security Plan for America, released in 2019.

The centrality of climate change to U.S. foreign policy is clearly articulated in the House bill: “to address the climate crisis, the United States must leverage the full weight of its diplomatic engagement and foreign assistance to promote our national security and economic interests related to climate change” (Sec. 30601). 

The legislation focuses on the importance of supporting U.S. allies and partners in addressing climate security, including in the Indo-Pacific region. The recommendations draw on an International Military Council on Climate and Security report, Climate Security in the Indo-Asia Pacific, and cite remarks by IMCCS Secretary-General, Sherri Goodman, who noted that, “climate shocks act as a threat multiplier in the Indo-Pacific region, increasing humanitarian response costs and impacting security throughout the region as sea levels rise, fishing patterns shift, food insecurity rises, and storms grow stronger and more frequent.” The bill states that the U.S. should deepen its cooperation with Indo-Pacific allies and partners through an inter-agency Indo-Pacific climate resiliency and adaptation strategy to improve forecasting environmental challenges, sustainable uses of forest and water resources, fisheries and marine resource conservation, and resilience to environmental challenges (Sec. 30202).

Overall, the robust climate security provisions of the America COMPETES Act roughly fall into three categories: planning for climate risks and resilience, strengthening relationships with U.S. allies and partners, and engaging in climate and security-smart international development strategies.

Planning for Climate Risks and Resilience: 

  • Calls for the Secretary of State to conduct biennial evaluations of “disruptions to the global climate system” and create a climate security strategy to assess, budget for, and implement responses to climate change vulnerabilities and risks (Sec. 30602). 
  • Creates an emergency preparedness initiative for the Pacific Islands. USAID will develop and implement a program to improve disaster preparedness and resilience in the Pacific Islands that includes education, technical assistance, and coordination of regional response plans (Sec. 30299G). 
  • Creates a program for critical mineral supply chain resilience. Provides grants, loans, and loan guarantees for materials and activities that bolster the resilience and security of America’s supply chains (Sec. 20204).
  • Develops a comprehensive, integrated 10-year Global Climate Change Resilience Strategy (Sec. 30606).
  • Ensures a whole-of-government response to climate action through the creation of a Climate Impacts Task Force to monitor climate impacts and social conditions, monitor and assess climate actions by other nations, strengthen the U.S. ability to mitigate risks and prevent national security impacts and assist other departments, foreign governments, and multilateral actors to do the same (Sec. 30610).

Strengthening Relationships with U.S. Allies and Partners:

  • Boosts cooperation with the Quad (Australia, India, and Japan) including participation in the Resilient Supply Chain Initiative and collaboration around energy innovation, climate mitigation and adaptation, disaster management, and global health security (Sec. 30203). 
  • Supports policy cooperation with ASEAN through innovation and capacity-building efforts in areas including technology development, disaster management, food security, and human rights. Also supports peaceful and diplomatic solutions to maritime disputes in the South China Sea and elsewhere and encourages the demilitarization of islands and other ocean features (Sec. 30205)
  • Develops a strategy to improve the capacity of civilian and national security infrastructure in the Pacific Islands in order to enhance maritime security, combat drug trafficking and transnational crime, cooperate on shared security challenges, and expand information sharing among maritime security forces (Sec. 30299E).
  • Establishes a United States-Caribbean Resilience Partnership through a multi-year strategy to increase weather and disaster resilience, engage in technical cooperation, dialogue, and assistance, increase investment in climate mitigation and adaptation, and promote regional cooperation (Sec. 30250).

Engaging in Climate and Security-Smart International Development Strategies:

  • Creates a strategy to improve critical infrastructure in the Pacific Islands with a focus on climate resilience, assist in developing climate risk assessments, invest in conservation and ecosystem protection. The Secretary of State should also submit a report reviewing foreign infrastructure developments in the Pacific Islands by non-allies and partners, their environmental impacts and sustainability, and their financial sustainability (Sec. 30299C).
  • Works with international partners to reduce deforestation by ensuring that Chinese and other Banks factor environmental and social impacts into lending practices with a particular focus on ending deforestation (Sec. 30611). 
  • Provides international development assistance to produce reliable renewable energy, adapt to climate change impacts, and employ sustainable land-use and agricultural practices. Projects must be carried out with consultation with the relevant local communities, particularly the most vulnerable communities (Sec. 30607). 

The many climate security provisions of the America COMPETES Act 2022 would bolster the competitiveness of the United States as climate change continues to shape the current and future security landscape. The climate finance provisions of the bill also bolster national security, since climate finance can build stability and conflict resilience, avert forced displacement, promote climate justice and counter violent extremism. From a climate security perspective, these moves are common-sense.

Elsa Barron is a Program Assistant at the Center for Climate and Security.


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