07 June 2022

Decarbonised Defence: The Need for Clean Military Power in the Age of Climate Change

Today the Expert Group of the International Military Council on Climate and Security (IMCCS Expert Group) launched a new reportDecarbonized Defense: The Need for Clean Military Power in the Age of Climate Change, the first in a series of papers comprising the third annual World Climate and Security Report. The paper warns that militaries must accelerate efforts toward net-zero to achieve a win-win-winminimize fossil fuel-related operational vulnerabilities, undermine petro-dictators like Vladimir Putin, and combat climate change.  

The report reveals that there are high operational costs of continued fossil fuel use by militaries, and recommends that security leaders across NATO and the EU seize opportunities to ensure that low carbon considerations and energy efficiency standards are key factors in new procurement processes, research and innovation. The authors note that the war in Ukraine is a turning point for sustainable change, and that ministries and departments of defence can lead broader technological change across society by creating enough demand signals to spur innovation and enable the private sector to bring low-carbon solutions to the market. 

The Decarbonization report release event at 11 AM EST/5 PM CET on June 7 includes senior climate security experts from NATO, the United States, the UK, and Europe, including Luxembourg Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defence Francois Bausch, NATO Assistant Secretary-General for Emerging Security Challenges David van Weel, Global Center for Adaptation CEO Patrick Verkooijen, IMCCS Secretary-General Sherri Goodman, and IMCCS Chair General Tom Middendorp (ret). 

The IMCCS Expert Group will also release a report on climate security adaptation practices and gaps among NATO militaries. It will also release subsequent papers on climate security risks in the Balkans, Eastern Mediterranean and the Sahel, derived from the The Hague Centre for Strategic Studies (HCSS) Climate Security Risk Monitor, a tool for examining relative climate hazard risks in countries around the world.  These papers will be part of the World Climate and Security Report 2022 series. 

In highlighting the importance of the World Climate and Security Report 2022, the Chair of IMCCS, General Tom Middendorp, former Chief of Defence of the Netherlands, stated:

We have passed the points of debating the urgency of Climate Change and whether or not Climate Change is also a matter of national security. This has now widely been recognized by an increasing number of countries and International Organizations like NATO and EU. It is time to walk the talk and to develop solutions. This series of IMCCS papers is meant to help develop the role of security institutions around the world and translate that into practical contributions and policies. The security sector has a role to play in forecasting the security effects of Climate Change, and in the area’s of mitigation and adaptation, as part of a whole-of-society effort.

The IMCCS Secretary-General, the Honorable Sherri Goodman, former U.S. Deputy Undersecretary of Defense and now Senior Strategist at the Center for Climate and Security, stated:

Security and defence organizations have long recognized climate change as a threat multiplier for increasing risk in both fragile and stable regions. To reduce climate risk and speed the energy transition, we must decarbonize every sector of society.  This new World Climate Security Report on Decarbonizing Defense shows how the defence sector can lead by example through a common approach to carbon emissions mapping and technology innovation. Today, there is no commonly agreed method to measure and report emissions from military activities.   As large energy users, militaries must prioritize climate action and decarbonize their energy use.  Defence organizations and the defence sector overall can lead in decarbonizing their activities, creating a triple bottom line of reducing costs, improving operational readiness, and reducing climate risk. 

Louise van Schaik of the Planetary Security Initiative and Clingendael Institute, who serves as Senior Member of the Executive Committee of the IMCCS and lead author of the Decarbonizing Defense report noted:  

The inherent security risks of fossil energy are increasingly apparent. NATO and European armies can gain a strategic advantage when moving on fast with decarbonizing military infrastructure and industry. The EU needs to include the military in its growth and modernization agenda centred around the European Green Deal. 

Katarina Kertysova, Policy Fellow at the European Leadership Network (ELN), Wilson Center Global Fellow, and author of the Decarbonized Defense report, said:

Moving away from fossil fuels makes sense not just from the climate point of view but also for our military survivability. There is much scope for the deepening of EU-NATO cooperation in this regard, with each organization bringing a unique set of strengths to the table. It is important that the security implications of climate change, including efforts by the military to reduce GHG emissions, feature prominently in the third EU-NATO Joint Declaration and that the two organizations work in full synergy and coordination moving forward.

Pierre Laboué, Member of the Executive Committee of the IMCCS, Research Fellow at IRIS, and author of the Decarbonized Defense report,  underlined that: 

Mitigation is essential to armed forces, not only to reduce logistic vulnerabilities but also to gain operational advantages and catalyze innovation at a broader scale. Those working on carbon footprints, identifying key assets and shifts as well as engaging in decarbonization pathways will thus lead the way. 2022 could be a turning point: stakeholders are now aware of the challenge and the context is critical.

Erin Sikorsky, Director of IMCCS, said:

Moving more quickly to clean energy is a triple-win for NATO militaries – it protects soldiers and operations, it undercuts petro-dictators like Putin, and it combats long-term climate security risks. Last year, NATO leaders agreed on the security risks posed by climate change – now it’s time to act. This new IMCCS report identifies concrete opportunities to do just that.

Michel Rademaker, Senior Member of the Executive Committee of the IMCCS, Deputy Executive Director of The Hague Centre for Strategic Studies (HCSS), and lead creator of the Climate Security Risk Monitor, offered: 

Now that more and more data is available organizations are asking the question what to do? Adaptation and mitigation requirements will have to be identified and made actionable. The Climate Security Monitor could be useful, as well as the paper series but also climate security games that were and are to be developed as part of the practice of creating situational awareness and understanding  and enhance insights into policy perspectives, investment and innovation activities for both defence and security organizations, NGOs and industries.

Read the full report here.

Watch the report launch event: 



Photo credit: Nigel Hoult/Flickr