#StoptheSame: How global leaders can truly deliver in our changing world

By Kervelle Baird

Like the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change is hindering livelihoods in agriculture and tourism among other sectors. Few opportunities is one factor that influences political tension and provokes conflict. As members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization understand, forced migration is a subsequent consequence. As developed nations among those largely responsible for climate change, these nations should finance Loss and Damage in developing countries as part of the strategy to combat threats of climate change.

With 9 years left to thwart climate change, it does not suffice to simply “develop a mapping methodology to help Allies measure greenhouse gas emissions from military activities and installations, which could contribute to formulating voluntary goals to reduce such emissions” (NATO 2021). NATO must be ambitious in its climate action considering the ubiquitous presence of its members’ militaries. 

The United States is one nation that epitomizes widespread global military presence which totals in the hundreds (Vine, 2020). Chomsky (2004) noted that, “In the early postwar years, US planners sought to fashion East and Southeast Asia into a Japan-centered system within the “overall framework of order” outlined in the San Francisco Peace Treaty and maintained by the US.” However, India upset President Harry Truman by protesting “US insistence on retaining Okinawa [Japan] as a military base, as it still does, over strong protests from Okinawans, whose voices barely register in the US.” The Philippines also protested and ‘Secretary of State Dulles condemned Filipinos for the “emotional prejudices” that kept them from grasping why they would have no relief for the torture they had ensured.’ Chomsky further noted that, 

Japan was to pay reparations, but only to the US and other colonial powers, despite the fact that the war was a Japanese war of aggression over Asia through the 1930s and only became a US-led Western war with Japan after Pearl Harbor. Japan was also to reimburse the US for costs of the occupation. For its Asian victims, Japan was to pay “compensation” in the form of export of Japanese manufacturing products using Southeast Asian resources, a central part of the arrangements that, in effect, reconstructed something like the “New Order in Asia” that Japan had attempted to construct by conquest, but was now gaining under US domination, so that it was [considered] unproblematic

Amid the Cold War, Secretary of State Henry Kissinger remarked that, ‘The world system should be based on the recognition that “the United States has global interests and responsibilities”’ (Chomsky, 2004). These remarks were made around the same time that the impact on climate change was known and hidden by US companies such as ExxonMobil which, as has been highlighted in recent history, do not separate themselves from public or foreign affairs. Chomsky revealed that, 

Reagan’s Commerce Department observed that the Marshall Plan [post-World War II aid to Western Europe] “set the stage for large amounts of private U.S. direct investment in Europe,” laying the groundwork for multinational corporations. Business Week described MNCs in 1975 as “the economic expression” of the “political framework” established by postwar policymakers in which “American business prospered and expanded on overseas orders…fueled initially by the dollars of the Marshall Plan.” and protected from “negative developments” by “the umbrella of American power” 

Recent history in the US indeed illustrated that power and financial interests are inextricably linked. Chomsky continued that, 

Other parts of the world were assigned their “functions” by State Department planners. Thus Southeast Asia was to provide resources and raw materials to the former imperial masters, crucially Britain, but also Japan, which was to be granted “some sort of empire toward the south,” in the phrase of George Kennan, head of the State Department’s Policy Planning Staff. Some areas were of little interest to the planners, notably Africa, which Kennan advised should be handed over to Europeans to “exploit” for their reconstruction. The Middle East, in contrast, was to be taken over by the United States. In 1945, State Department officials described Saudi Arabian energy resources as “a stupendous source of strategic power, and one of the greatest material prizes in world history”; the Gulf region generally was considered “probably the richest economic prize in the field of foreign investment.” Eisenhower later described it as the “most strategically important area of the world.” Britain agreed. Its planners described the resources of the region in 1947 as “a vital prize for any power interested in world influence or domination. 

These trends in history have influenced global disparities. They account for the perpetration of climate change by developed countries and developing countries experiencing Loss and Damage on frontlines with little resources to cope after being disadvantaged in a skewed global system. Following the recent G7 Summit, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson commented on looming economic growth in the Indo-Pacific region in 20-30 years. During the summit, he, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and US President Joe Biden, “discussed…issues of mutual concern, including the Indo-Pacific region. They agreed that the strategic context in the Indo-Pacific was changing and that there was a strong rationale for deepening cooperation between the three governments” (Gov.UK, 2021). Considering the effects of such self-seeking interests recorded in history and borne since then and the insufficient ambition to address all aspects of climate change, namely Loss and Damage, I rebuke intentions to follow the same old foreign policies and maintain that developed countries owe a debt to developing countries. 

References:

Chomsky, Noam. Hegemony or Survival: America’s Quest for Global Dominance. 2004. Henry Holt and Company, LLC. New York 

David Vine, “Lists of U.S. Military Bases Abroad, 1776-2020,” American University Digital Research Archive, 2020, https://doi.org/10.17606/bbxc-4368

North Atlantic Treaty Organization. NATO Climate Change and Security Action Plan. 2021. Available from https://www.nato.int/cps/en/natohq/official_texts_185174.htm

UK Government. PM meeting with President Biden and Prime Minister Morrison: 12 June 2021. Available from https://www.gov.uk/government/news/pm-meeting-with-president-biden-and-prime-minister-morrison-12-june-2021

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