Environment

Climate Change: Why Is Defence Interested?

What impact could a changing climate have on operations and what threats could it potentially pose?

Climate change and biodiversity loss are set to become the Government's number one international priority, with defence currently accounting for half of all the Government's carbon emissions.

Lieutenant General Richard Nugee, the Ministry of Defence's (MOD) lead on climate change and sustainability, published a report last month stating that defence has an enhanced interest in responding to a changing climate as its people will often be placed at the centre of it.

He said the Armed Forces must embrace the change and that going green will not impact capability.  

The document, titled 'Climate Change and Sustainability Strategic Approach', called on the military to take a leading role in making change, including drastically cutting emissions and becoming a world leader in green defence.

It said humanitarian aid missions like those in the Caribbean in recent years are expected to increase, while simulation training could benefit those deploying to a unique climate.

Medical processes may also have to adapt to new injury and illness risks emerging if boots are to remain on a changing ground.

The document came a month after Prime Minister Boris Johnson warned climate change is a grave threat to global peace and security.

In December, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said RAF fighter jets could be using up to 50% sustainable fuel in the future.

Watch: In March, the Armed Forces were told they "need to adapt" to new issues posed by climate change.

Two months earlier, First Sea Lord, Admiral Tony Radakin, said Britain faces increasing threats from China and Russia as new global trade routes open as a result of climate change.

Whilst last summer, the Royal Navy's 'greenest' ship, HMS Tamar, joined the fleet.

The vessel's catalytic converters can reduce the ship's nitrogen-based emissions by 75 to 90% and its engines are also covered in sensors to help reduce emissions.

Under the report by Lt Gen Nugee, a three-stage plan hopes to see defence through to 2050, by which time it plans to have helped the UK meet its net-zero carbon emissions target.

From now until 2025, the MOD will focus on existing projects, primarily estate sustainability, while also working with suppliers in search of emission-reducing solutions and the ways these can be realised through contract conditions.

Algae in lab equipment DATE UNKNOWN used on 121220 CREDIT MOD.jpg
Algae, alcohol and household waste could be used as fuel to power RAF jets in the future (Picture: MOD).

Between 2026 and 2035, defence plans to build on the progress above, maximise its ability to respond to threats that are a by-product of climate change and understand how emerging technologies can bolster these efforts.

In the final 15-year period, defence aims to be "doing everything it can to harness novel technologies which further build resilience and further reduce emissions".

Although a sense of urgency has emerged relating to climate change, it has been on the defence agenda in recent years.

This year marked the MOD's 30th Annual Sanctuary Awards which recognise the efforts of organisations and people across UK defence to be more eco-friendly and sustainable.