31 March 2021
  • climate security
  • United Kingdom
  • Military
  • Sustainability
  • resilience

UK publishes new Climate-Defence Roadmap aiming for Zero-Emissions by 2050

The United Kingdom's Ministry of Defence (MoD) published a new roadmap on how to address the impacts of climate change on the activities of the armed forces. The ambition outlined is to enhance the resilience of the army’s operations and assets, whilst also creating a more sustainable and environmentally focused culture within the wider defence sector. Lieutenant-General Richard Nugee, who spoke at the webinar on climate security hosted by the PSI and British Embassy in the Netherlands last month, was tasked by the MoD to assess the readiness of the British armed forces to climate considerations. The publication of the report led to the roadmap, which outlines three core focuses for climate-reform within the military with targets set by 2050:

1. Adaption and resilience to better prepare for active missions in more hostile environments

2. Promoting sustainable practices and contributing towards net-zero emissions by 2050

3. The UK defence sector should act as a global leader in combatting climate-induced or worsened threats

The roadmap sets out a wide variety of goals, such as 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 climactic phenomena and increasing funding for research and innovation around sustainable practices such as 'smart bases' (energy self-sufficient). Whilst the UK has made good strides across all goals, more focus is needed, especially around goals one and two. 

To achieve the objectives, a three stage timeline put in place; the first phase or 'epoch' will last from 2021 to 2025. It mainly focus on establishing the best practices through gathering data and insights on the current state of the armed forces regarding climate sensitivity. Epoch two will last from 2026 to 2035 and will see an acceleration in sustainable initiatives that will build on pilot projects from the first epoch. It includes an expectation that climate considerations will be fully integrated into active operations, especially overseas. Finally, epoch three will see the culmination of the strategies articulated by the roadmap up to 2050, with all aspects of the defence sector being climate-proofed whilst also proactively supporting on any successor goals to the existing UN Sustainable Development goals. 

With this roadmap the UK has proven to be a leader in recognising the need for national governments to be integrating climate considerations into their security concerns and defence sector more specifically. On an operational level, the armed forces has already made improvements. The Royal Navy, for example, has reduced their nitrogen oxide emissions by 95% and the Army has been rolling out carbon-neutral accommodation for certain domestic installations, with the aim to extend this programme into 2022. 

Working on a multilateral track, in February of this year, the UK hosted a special session at the UN Security Council on the linkages between climate and security, with widespread support (for more, read the PSI's reporting here). This topic has been gaining substantial traction, especially with regards to the COP26 being hosted in Glasgow, UK in November of this year. Whilst still a roadmap with limited tangibles being offered, it nevertheless represents an important change in attitude from those within the defence sector, who up until now, have been hesitating to linking security with climate. And the sector as such for a long time was kept off the hook by international climate policy makers.

The UK’s roadmap follows the publication of a similar EU roadmap (see the EU’s own Climate Change & Defence Roadmap for reference), and a growing attention for climate change in NATO. For more information on the subject, see the Clingendael/PSI report on climate change considerations in 11 militaries, including the UK, defence sector's climate readiness and a short analysis of fears over the militarisation of climate change

By Akash Ramnath

For the full roadmap, please click HERE

Photo Credits: Steve Slater/Flickr