The U.K.’s Ministry of Defence (MOD) says climate change will threaten peace, and that the consequences of global warming and other environmental impacts are many and varied, including mass migration and economic destruction.
The U.K. hosted a session at a UN Security Council meeting in February on the link between climate and security, and the issue has been gaining substantial traction, especially with regards to the COP26 being hosted in Glasgow, U.K. in November of this year.
MOD has recently published its roadmap to becoming more resilient and sustainable in the face of global climate change. Before diving into the plans, Jeremy Quin, Minister for Defence Procurement, admitted that in order for the ministry to be successful, they would, in turn, be a carbon emitter, but that they would embrace the opportunity that the “more sustainable” approach could bring.
The roadmap sets out a wide variety of goals, which include but are not limited to improving medical capabilities to deal with climate-related injuries and trauma, introducing carbon targets for individual branches, expanding the resourcing for disaster and humanitarian responses caused by climate disasters, and increasing funding for research and innovation around sustainable practices.
A Three-Pronged Approach
The roadmap encompasses three multi-faceted approaches that the ministry plans on emphasizing moving forward: adaptation and resilience, sustainability and net-zero, and global leadership.
MOD says adaptation and resilience will be achieved through disaster response and support to civilian authorities. This can be traced to the U.K.’s response to COVID-19, which showed the nation that the ability to act quickly and effectively is important during a crisis. The ministry will also adopt a “climate lens” to use “reasonable, evidence-informed assumptions” to consider implementation techniques. There will also be a transition to new energy systems.
Meanwhile, the sustainability and net-zero goal will target eight key areas. Most notably the ministry plans to change the mindsets of its staff. MOD hopes this behavior and systemic change will make sustainability an intrinsic part of its future operation. Under the terms of the new roadmap, MOD will analyze the life cycles of new assets, consider energy efficiency when building, hold internal consultations on carbon targets, change elements of land management and make an effort to conserve wildlife and vegetation.
The third approach, global leadership, focuses on alliances and international institutions. The U.K. plans to encourage allies and partners to take strides in protecting the environment. The plans reference the NATO Agenda on Climate Change and Security as a building block for further progress. In addition to reaching out to allies, the ministry plans to develop climate threat horizon-scanning technology that will reveal potential risks, guide decision-making and be used internationally.
Each of these three approaches are broken down into smaller phases. The first goal is set to a timeline of four years (2021-2025). This phase sets the foundation for greater change. Examples of actions that will occur in this step include dividing carbon targets and analyzing equipment carbon footprints.
The second phase includes a significant reduction of emissions, maximization of global response capabilities and exploration of emerging technologies. This step is expected to come into play from 2026-2035.
Finally, there will be a 15-year period (2036-2050) in which the ministry plans to harness new technologies, build resilience, further reduce emissions and successfully obtain high operational effectiveness.
The First Year
MOD plans to make significant changes in the first year of the roadmap. This includes appointing a sustainability non-executive director and establishing a head office. Additionally, the ministry plans to revalidate its emissions footprint, develop a reduction trajectory and deliver a wide consultation of future disaggregation of carbon targets.
Also planned is a series of “test and trial” sites in England. These developments will ensure that there is a foundation of support for habitats, community involvement and a range of landscapes.
Some of the most notable actions that will take place within the first year include:
- Building a coalition of militaries that will work to achieve commitments on adaptation, resilience and mitigation;
- Exploring new types of partnerships to help build resilience nationally and internationally;
- Reviewing and adapting training and medical plans that will anticipate trends driven by climate in respective areas;
- Establish an outcomes-focused sustainability group as part of the Defence Suppliers Forum; and
- Implement appropriate weighting to low carbon options and sustainability which will incentivize industries to offer low carbon solutions for new equipment.
MOD also wants to see changes with regards to military technologies. For example, water purification, advanced maintenance methods, recycling and the adoption of electric vehicles that will reduce waste and emissions will help the ministry attain its goals.
Within all sections of the roadmap, the overarching theme of change is clear. MOD is ready and willing to adopt new policy, technology and programs while also reevaluating pre-existing ones in order to improve operational effectiveness when dealing with defense and security challenges in the future.
The ministry hopes that by 2050, it will have reduced its emission, increased sustainability, reached net-zero emissions and achieved recognition as a global leader. And it has already begun to take action. The Royal Navy has reduced its Nitrogen Oxide emissions by 95% on its Offshore Vessel Patrols, whilst the British Army is piloting Carbon efficient accommodation across its training estates and will continue this program into 2022. The Royal Air Force has also introduced more environmentally-friendly green fuel to power aircraft and have increased the use of synthetics in pilot training which has led to a reduction in fuel demands.
The U.K. is not alone in its focus on climate. The EU issued its own roadmap last year, and both the Department of Defense and NATO are now placing a brighter spotlight on climate change and drawing lines between the crisis and national and international security concerns.