The interconnected relationship between Climate Change and the Military Sector
According to Newton’s Third Law “for every action, there is an equal but opposite reaction”, a relation that can also be applicable in the way the Armed Forces interact with climate change and vice versa. Firstly, it is important to note that the military sector is huge greenhouse gas emitter and heavily dependent on fossil fuels which negatively impacts climate change. Secondly, military personnel face operational difficulties due to climate change; extreme heatwaves in Afghanistan or Mali to extreme cold environments in the Arctic. Besides, European Armed Forces are often called upon to deal with environmental catastrophes as floods in Western Europe to fires in the South of Europe.
To elaborate more, the military sector should move forward into implementing sustainable policies to reduce its emissions and at the same time increase operational effectiveness. Reducing dependency to fossil fuels has been deemed as essential and a first step is the wider use of electric vehicles by the military sector, while adequate equipment and specialised training would significantly provide military personnel with assets to respond to such challenges. Climate Change has been recognized as a multiplier of threats both in the EU and NATO; the Strategic Compass calls for environmental considerations to Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) military missions and operations, while the Strategic Concept endeavours NATO to become a climate neutral organisation, considerations that are also evident at the EU-NATO third joint declaration. However, more actions are needed, especially considering that the EU is committed in becoming climate neutral by 2050. In order to succeed though many changes in European militaries are needed. EU tools as the European Defence Fund (EDF), which has a dedicated category for energy and climate, and European Defence Agency’s initiatives as the consultation forum for sustainable energy in the defence and security sector (CF SEDSS), and the circular economy in defence significantly contribute into making the military more energy efficient.
EUROMIL, on its side, is advocating for the promotion of sustainable practices in the military sector, the proper training of troops and the total understanding that the defence sector can significantly contribute in the fight against climate change. For that reason, EUROMIL has become part of the EU Climate Pact to promote the active participation of military personnel in introducing sustainable practices in the armed forces.
Considering the actions taken by the European Parliament on the topic, the Annual Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) Report underlines the need to have climate change considerations when planning and implementing CSDP missions and operations, while it calls on the Member States to focus on the needs of military personnel and provide specialized training for them to be able to deal with emerging threats and challenges as climate change. To continue, the Strategic Compass also calls for the full implementation of the EU Climate Change and Defence Roadmap by the end of 2023, and thus the Member States should move towards implementation.
In this regard, the European Parliament should ensure timely implementation of the provisions made by the Strategic Compass and the Climate Change and Defence Roadmap for the European Armed Forces to move towards energy efficiency and -at the same time – increase capabilities and efficiency. To provide a few examples, it is high time that climate change advisors are deployed in CSDP missions and operations, while increasing training for military personnel in that matter. Lastly, it has become evident that moving towards climate neutrality can only happen by cooperation with the industry; energy efficiency also in the military goes hand in hand with innovation and technology, since the threats that are posed by climate change change the operational requirements of the Armed Forces.
Another aspect that has been often underdiscussed is the role that the reserve forces can play in dealing with environmental hazards. Increasing the capacity of the reserve in Europe by providing specialized training and proper equipment could create forces with the necessary expertise in dealing with such challenges and providing the necessary humanitarian assistance when needed.
Overall, Member States, under EU guidelines, should show the necessary political will to move towards sustainability in the military sector, and thus invest in green defence. The majority of the EU Member States have announced a unique increase in their defence spending – given the underspending for more than a decade in Europe – and climate change should be in the core of it.
This article is part of EUROMIL’s European Elections 2024 project.