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Navy’s Climate Strategy Aims to Build Resilience Against Readiness Challenges

The U.S. Navy and Marine Corps have released their climate strategy, Climate Action 2030, setting the Department of the Navy on a path to achieve the commitment to net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, while becoming a more capable, agile, and lethal fighting force. 

The Department identified climate investments as specific line items within its annual budget for the first time in 2021, looking at areas such as adaptation and resilience, exercises and assessments, disaster response, modeling and sensing, and future planning. 

Climate change is expected to intensify the rate of trans-boundary threats the Department of the Navy will need to meet. These conditions require the Navy and Marine Corps to adapt to meet new operational requirements, respond to increasingly common humanitarian response missions, promote regional stability, and address risks to installations and defense communities.

“Climate change is one of the most destabilizing forces of our time, exacerbating other national security concerns and posing serious readiness challenges,” said the Honorable Carlos Del Toro, Secretary of the Navy.

“We will see more extreme heat events such as the record-setting heatwaves in the normally temperate Pacific Northwest, and the expansive fires and unprecedented droughts in the West. These events mean more black flag days with temperatures at-or-above 90 degrees Fahrenheit, requiring strenuous activity – including mission-essential training – be curtailed because it is not safe,” Del Toro continued. “It means strain on the grid as people compete for energy to cool off, making mission and our people vulnerable to an outage. If temperatures continue to rise, and disease develops and spreads, our hospital ships and medical personnel will be called on to deploy more in support of nations in need. As we see increased instability in parts of the world strained by climate-driven water and food insecurity or migration, the blue-green Gator Navy team will need to support more of these increasing humanitarian aid and disaster relief missions.”

With much of the Navy’s infrastructure being based on coasts, it is particularly vulnerable to sea level rise and storm surge as well as other climate risks such as drought and wildfire. Indeed, a Center for Climate and Security report from 2018 found that the U.S. military’s domestic and international coastal military installations face significant risks from climate-driven changes in the environment. The report also found that these risks, if not sufficiently mitigated, may have wide-ranging effects on the military’s ability to effectively fulfill its mission.

The U.S. Army has already released its climate action plan and the Air Force is yet to do so, but work is underway. Targets and goals included in the Navy’s Climate Action 2030 include reducing emissions, reducing energy demand while increasing carbon pollution-free electricity at our installations and bases, and equipping the force with the proper training, plans, equipment needed to operate in a more volatile climate future. It shares many common goals with the Army’s plan, while not being as detailed.

In addition to national targets, the Navy is also committing to draw down an additional five-million metric tons of CO2 or equivalent pollution per year by 2027 – roughly the equivalent of removing one million cars off the road. The Navy will also deploy cybersecure microgrids or comparable technology to leverage carbon pollution-free power at its bases and installations to support critical missions.

To coincide with the release of the strategy, the Navy has initiated a 90-day implementation planning process guided by an implementation memorandum. During this timeframe, stakeholders will work together to identify initiatives to make progress towards the performance goals outlined herein. The Navy is also standing up an Executive Steering Committee, to be chaired by the Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Energy, Installations, and Environment, to ensure cohesive implementation of this strategy across the enterprise.

Read the Climate Action 2030 strategy document at the Department of the Navy

Kylie Bielby
Kylie Bielby has more than 20 years' experience in reporting and editing a wide range of security topics, covering geopolitical and policy analysis to international and country-specific trends and events. Before joining GTSC's Homeland Security Today staff, she was an editor and contributor for Jane's, and a columnist and managing editor for security and counter-terror publications.

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