18 March 2024

Navigating Climate Change in Defence

Climate Risk Management Guide for Chiefs of Defence Staff

Climate change manifests through various hazards, from severe climate and weather events like floods, storms, droughts or wildfires, to gradual shifts in temperature and precipitation patterns, ice melting and sea level rise. Armed forces that fail to adapt to climate change may face severe consequences and their operations may become compromised. The defence workforce may be directly affected by climate hazards in their health, safety and overall well-being throughout the entire force generation cycle. On the other hand, climate impacts can affect missions and operations by impeding access to fully functional infrastructure and assets at critical times.

Moreover, considering the reliance of military installations on essential services provided by civilian entities, such as electricity, fuel and water, as well as the nature of the critical infrastructure they operate, disruption is a cause for concern. Even a single component failure in any part of a system can rapidly escalate the disruption, propagating through out and affecting other interconnected systems, and ultimately impacting military installations.

This guide addresses a gap within the European defence sector, as well as echoes the expressed interest of EU Ministries of Defence (MoDs) in tailored guidance on climate risk management. It also closely aligns with EU policy that recognises the interplay between climate change and security. Overall, efforts aim to create a resilient European security agenda via EU-level coordination of strategies and action plans that link defence with sustainable energy and climate action.

In this context, this guide on climate risk management helps EU defence strengthen its resilience against climate impacts and gain a strategic advantage by preventing or reducing consequences, and responding and recovering swiftly from crises, thereby ensuring both continuity and sustainability. Integrating climate risk management in decision-making provides MoDs with a comprehensive view of their exposure to climate hazards and the vulnerabilities.

Integrating both climate adaptation and mitigation into EU defence strategies and planning offers significant advantages. It enhances EU defence energy resilience and autonomy by reducing the reliance on fossil fuels, increasing energy efficiency and transitioning to renewable energy sources, with improvements in operational flexibility and potentially cost reductions. Moreover, it positions the EU’s armed forces to effectively manage climate related threats. Aligning EU defence goals with global climate action ensures a more effective response to climate change.

These are extracts from the "Navigating Climate Change in Defence" report by the Joint Research Centre of the European Commission, published in March 2024. The full report can be accessed through the link here.

Photo credit: NATO North Atlantic Treaty Organization/Flickr