30 May 2024

Can Europe green its militaries?

The 2022 invasion of Ukraine shocked Europe out of its security slumber. Suddenly, European Union member states became painfully aware of Europe’s security risks and dependencies. As the United States security guarantees seem frail, the EU now seeks to reduce these strategic dependencies and secure supply chains in defence. Now, more than two years into this war of warehouses, military stockpiles have shrunk and defence spending continues to surge across the bloc, generating large orders for Europe’s defence industry. Although these investments support the EU’s goal of strategic autonomy, they conflict with other essential goals, such as reducing greenhouse gas emissions in an effort to combat climate change. In many cases, climate change itself poses additional security risks for the EU and its member states, for example, threats to military infrastructure or worsening conflicts.

This Alert assesses how emerging technologies could potentially reduce European defence emissions linked to this remilitarization while taking into account the need for operational effectiveness of defence operations. It focuses on sustainable aviation fuels and hydrogen, two alternatives for propulsion by fossil fuel combustion engines which are increasingly put to commercial use. This Alert identifies the (dis)advantages of their implementation for military use in order to encapsulate and critically assess conflicting perspectives around their use. It also identifies potential policy avenues for integrating these energies into wider EU plans for decarbonisation and defence reform. 

This Joint PSI and Clingendael publication was authored by Xander Zwemstra and Emil Havstrup. The Alert can be viewed using the link here.


Photo credit: © Photo by Reilly Cook on Unsplash