Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Video: Cleo Paskal at the East West Center, DC, on The New Battle for the Pacific: How the West is Losing the South Pacific to China, the UAE, and Just About Everyone Else (3 October 2013)

The New Battle for the Pacific: How the West is Losing the South Pacific to China, the UAE, and Just About Everyone Else from East-West Center on Vimeo.
Far from being small island states, Pacific Island countries are showing themselves as large ocean states, with vast fisheries, potential seabed resources, and increasingly important geostrategic positioning - as the range of military bases dotted throughout the region can attest. However, just as the region is showing its importance, Western influence is waning. When the larger Western powers pulled out of the region following the end of the Cold War (the United Kingdom, for example, closed three South Pacific High Commissions in 2006), they turned to Australia and New Zealand to "manage" the area for the West. Ms. Cleo Paskal discusses how and why this happened and what are the options for the West in this new battle for the Pacific.

Ms. Cleo Paskal is an Associate Fellow in the Energy, Environment and Resources department at Chatham House, London, and Adjunct Faculty in the Department of Geopolitics, Manipal University, India.

Recorded at the East-West Center office in Washington, D.C., October 3, 2013

Video: Cleo's Talk at the Trudeau Foundation's 10th annual Conference (22 November 2013)

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Interview (DW radio, interview by Saroja Coelho): Europe is asking for a catastrophe

Cleo Paskal gives a presentaton at the conference Energy Security – How to Feed and Secure the Global Demand? held in Frankfurt am Main, Germany in July 2013. (Photo: Klaus Weddig)


'Europe is asking for a catastrophe'

Extreme weather caused by climate change threatens to ravage Europe's oldest cities. Cleo Paskal, an expert on geopolitical and environmental impact, says Europe is not facing the climate realities of the 21st century.
Deutsche Welle: Speaking at the Energy Security Conference in Frankfurt this month, you said we tend to focus on the impact humans have on the environment, but that we should also examine the impact our environment is having on us. What did you mean?
Cleo Paskal: We are in a world that is changing, not just for climate change reasons but because of population increases, depletions in groundwater, populations moving into increasingly vulnerable areas. What happened in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina was the result of building on floodplains. It was a city in a hurricane zone that was hit by a hurricane. It was not a surprise. It created an enormous social, political and economic disaster, from which the region still hasn't recovered.
So, environmental change, and its effect on us, is being seen increasingly and in an accelerating way. This is going to change the way economies can sustain themselves, the way countries interact with each other and the way power is projected across the board.
A house is inundated by the Elbe river near the village of Fischbeck, in the federal state of Saxony Anhalt, June 12, 2013. (Photo: REUTERS/Thomas Peter)Large parts of Central Europe, including Germany, were devastated by floods this year
You have also said that European infrastructure and our policies are created without a sense of the world we are going to be facing in 20, 30 or 50 years. You've mentioned flooding as an example. You said it made sense 300 years ago to build in low areas near water, but that isn’t a good plan today. Could you explain?
Unfortunately, Germany just suffered some very tragic flooding. If you look at the towns, most of them are quite old, which means that they haven't been consistently flooded, otherwise they would have moved. Also, they were designed for a very specific time and a very specific place and a very specific population size - much smaller populations, more mobile and different climatic conditions. Very static conditions.
In most of Europe - and definitely Germany - our infrastructure and locations were chosen 500, 700, even a thousand years ago, that's how old the towns are. A lot has changed in that time but we haven't changed the locations which we put our infrastructure in. As a result, we are increasingly vulnerable as the variability comes. And it's not just the location but the population size. These towns were designed for 10,000 people, not 100,000 people. So, an already vulnerable location gets stressed more and more and that makes it even more vulnerable to disruption.
Paris, Maine, firefighter Stan Larson tries to keep his balance as he makes his way across debris to place a red sticker on a flood-damaged home in the lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans Saturday, Oct. 1, 2005. (Photo: ddp images/AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)New Orleans is in a hurricane zone. Eight years on, it is still recovering from Hurricane Katrina
So, you want people to start thinking about moving to safer spaces or building new cities rather than shoring up the ones that we have?
The insurance sector is starting to discuss this because they're the ones that have been picking up the bill. You are already starting to see places in the UK, for example, where houses just can't get insurance any more. If you can't get insurance, you can't sell your house.
They're not getting insurance because they're vulnerable to catastrophes?
Because they flooded. In fact, in the UK they built houses on floodplains. The sellers said, 'we guarantee you can get insurance'. So homeowners got the insurance and when they flooded, they got the payout. But then the insurer said once is enough and we're not going to pay out again. Now homeowners are stuck with houses on a floodplain that they can't get insurance for. This isn't one or two cases – this is potentially tens of thousands of cases and increasingly more across Europe as the floodplains change and increase.
What conversation would you like policymakers to have?
I'd like them to have real discussions about risk, where risk isn't discounted, distorted or diverted into other factors. If a place is too dangerous to build in, don't back it with federal insurance. Let the market say this is too dangerous to build in and just pull out.
This is a problem across the western world. This is why the US national flood insurance program is consistently bankrupt: because the market has said it's too dangerous. But the government has said but we want the tax revenue from the beachfront properties. So they push the risk of the flooding off onto the global or the state-wide taxpayer by providing federal flood insurance. By discounting, distorting or diverting risk into other areas, we're getting a very unreal sense of the vulnerabilities in our systems.
Picture of Paris with the Eiffel Tower shown in the background. (Photo: Fotolia/ThorstenSchmitt #28290547)Are cities built hundreds of years ago prepared for the realities of the 21st century?
How does Europe perceive this?
Europe thinks this is mostly a developing world problem but it's not. Actually the countries with the oldest, most static, least adapted infrastructure are the old Western countries like the ones in Europe. This infrastructure is hundreds of years old, it's for a different time. Also, the population expects a very high level of responsibility from the government, whereas in places like India people have generators at home because they know not to rely on the government. If their house floods out they have friends they can stay with, the social networks are extremely strong. So if Europe thinks that it's in a better position than the emerging world, it really needs to re-think.
Cleo Paskal is an associate fellow at Chatham House, the Royal Institute of International Affairs in London, and an expert on geostrategic issues. She is the author of 'Global Warring: How Environmental, Economic, and Political Crises Will Redraw the World Map'.
Interview by Saroja Coelho

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Article: Business As Usual Is Finished (energlobe.eu)

Why the "3 Geos" create new global paradigms

Ensuring energy security is becoming more and more complex. Energy flow is coming from a wider range of suppliers and technologies, but is still often linked together and delivered by massive, inflexible infrastructures. Any variability in the systems that support the financing, extraction, refining, generating and distribution of energy can disrupt supply. Disruption to supply can have serious economic, political and social implications. Where it is getting increasing tricky is that those supporting systems are being caught up in larger, global shifts.

Geopolitically, Russia, for example, is using petropower and nuclear expertise to affect its negotiating potision with its political allies and foes.

Meanwhile, geoeconomically, the rise of China is resulting in Chinese companies taking up enormous stakes in oil and gas fields around the world, while at the same time it is using its domestic economic policies to gain market advantage in areas such as solar.

And, from a geophysical point of view, changes in the physical environment of the planet (including natural disaster, climate change, shifting demographics, etc.), are increasingly affecting energy distribution and usage. In the past month alone, massive floods triggered major power disruptions in Germany, Alberta and India, and immense forest fires affected supply in Arizona and Quebec.

We are shifting towards a more multipolar world, with the economic balance of power gravitating towards Asia, and with major shocks triggered by environmental disasters (such as Fukushima, super-storm Sandy, and the increasingly costly typhoons hitting China’s east coast). If we want to keep the lights on (literally), the changes in the “3 geos” (the geoeconomic, geopolitical and geophysical) are forcing us to reevaluate existing systems.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Quoted in Time Magzine about Ethiopia's dam on the Nile

Quoted in 'Ethiopia’s Plan to Dam the Nile Has Egypt Fuming', by William Lloyd George. 


In spite of the uncertainty surrounding the dam project — and its potential to create friction in the region – it could ultimately turn out to bring greater harmony to the countries through which the Nile flows. “If transparency is increased then this dam can be a great opportunity for the region to work together,” says Cleo Paskal, a specialist in water and food security at London’s Chatham House think tank. “Ethiopia will now be a stakeholder of the Nile and it will be in all the countries’ interests to increase dialogue and to protect the river in a way that benefits all.”

Friday, June 21, 2013

Interview (radio): Cleo on a German documentary about water resource tensions

'Der Kampf um die Ressource Wasser' broadcast by Deutschlandradio can be heard here. Cleo is quoted as saying:

"Das Projekt ist Ausdruck größerer geopolitischer Verschiebungen in der Region."


"Der politische Status quo in der Region hat sich nicht nur durch den arabischen Frühling massiv verändert - auch neue Akteure spielen eine Rolle, beispielsweise China. Der Staudamm ist daher nur eine von vielen Veränderungen in der Region. "


"Somalia zerfällt. Der Sudan ist inzwischen geteilt. Und Ägypten hat mit seinen eigenen Problemen zu kämpfen. Dank der Schwäche der anderen kann Äthiopien seine Rechte am Nilwasser stärker einfordern."

Your guess is as good as, no better than, hers as to what it means.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Quoted in Financial Times on Ethiopia's dam on the Nile

From, 'Water: Battle of the Nile' By Katrina Manson and Borzou Daragahi.


“This is about Egypt being weakened and Ethiopia becoming stronger in comparison,” says Cleo Paskal, a water security expert at Chatham House, the London think-tank. [...] 

But a piecemeal approach will not resolve the deeper regional imbalances. “This colonial-era paradigm is locking conflict into the system,” Ms Paskal says. “Unless it’s broken out of, it will just get worse and worse.”

Monday, June 10, 2013

Interview (radio): Cleo on Background Briefing talking about IEA report and strategic issues

To hear Cleo interviewed by Ian Masters on Background Briefing about everything ranging from super storm Sandy to global security, click here.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

HuffPo: New Lend-Lease for Indo-Pacific Allies

On August 28, 2012, Chinese Air Force Colonel Dai Xu wrote a commentary for the Chinese-language edition of the Communist Party's Global Times. It read, in part:
Since we have decided that the US is bluffing in the East China Sea, we should take this opportunity to respond to these empty provocations with something real. This includes Vietnam, the Philippines and Japan, who are the three running dogs of the United States in Asia. We only need to kill one, and it will immediately bring the others to heel.
The Colonel was not reprimanded for his inciting comments. Rather, he is just one of a growing chorus of increasingly aggressive, and outspoken, Chinese military leaders. Rear Admiral Zhang Zhaozhong has said that the US would "run like a rabbit" if China went to war with Japan over the Diaoyu Islands, and that Chinese naval superiority is so great, "If there is a clash in the South China Sea, the possibility that foreign countries would intervene is low, and any conflict would not last long."
That bark is backed by a growing bite. Since 2002, when Hu came to power, China has been very focused on developing high tech and military technologies, including a blue waternavy. Given the comparative financial crisis in the West, the technical losses due to cyber theft, and China's focus, it is possible that, in a decade or so, China may be equal to the US in advanced technologies, thereafter even pulling ahead.
China's calculus seems to assume that the US will not actively deploy in region. And it is testing that conclusion -- in particular by pushing harder and deeper in the South China Sea and with Japan. If China is proved right, it can lead China to extremely destabilizing unilateral action. If it is wrong, China will find out only once the US does engage, meaning an active conflict in the region. Either outcome, or just the persistent insecurity, is bad, to say the least.
One way to undermine Chinese strategic calculus, and to ensure peace, is to build up a credible regional deterrent. Korea, Singapore and Japan have advanced (though small compared to China) navies and, if they work together, can start to head in that direction.
Additionally, the US could offer 'lend lease' agreements to other, less militarily advanced nations that are persistently targeted by China, in particular Vietnam, Philippines and India.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Video: Interview with Cleo Paskal for Adelphi and German Federal Foreign Office

Cleo Paskal discusses a range of environmental change and security issues, including the difference between Indian and Chinese approaches to environmental change and foreign policy.