The UN Climate Change Conference (COP26), raised the stakes in global climate action. It recognized the urgency of taking immediate action to decarbonise global energy systems. Despite this, there have been Competing claimsAbout its success and the thousands upon thousands of youth activists who gathered in Glasgow’s streets to protest it. Criticism world leaders and businesses for still failing to recognise the urgency of the climate crisis – the most critical matter of our time. Everyone can play a part in the fight against global warming. How does NATO, as a Security Organisation, contribute to international climate efforts, and what can the Alliance do more?
For a long time, the military and environmentalists were seen as distant entities with little or no interaction. Even today, activists and green parties in Europe continue their opposition to the existence of armed force. As the climate movement has grown in speed and there is greater awareness of the urgency of climate change, the dialogue on climate security has increased. This, along with calls for a more comprehensive approach in addressing climate change, has slowly brought different sectors together. While dialogue is not new but the ambition and scale of collective climate action are unprecedented.
Last year’s UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow was a manifestation of the growing willingness to act and work together. Although the Alliance plays no formal role in the UN climate talks, NATO’s Secretary General, Jens Stoltenberg was listed among the Conference participants, alongside other representatives of the defence and security sectors.
Like his predecessor Anders Fogh Rasmussen who took part in the same event, COP15 in Copenhagen in 2009Jens Stoltenberg participated in the Discussion of climate-related security threatsThat was part of COP26’s agenda. Echoing Climate-related commitments made at NATO’s Brussels Summit in June last year, Stoltenberg underscored three lines of action that NATO leaders committed to take. The Allies will not only increase their awareness of the climate-security nexus but also reduce military emissions and adapt forces and operations to changing situations so that they can work in all conditions.
Climate change has long been known as a threat multiplier and is increasingly recognised as a “Shape threat” that dramatically alters the environments in which Allied militaries will have to operate in the coming decades. Climate change has the potential to cause a dramatic shift in the environment that Allied militaries will have to operate in over the next decades. significant implicationsNATO at the tactical, operational, and strategic levels. In addition to climate-related risks to military infrastructure and force readiness, more extreme weather events can also increase conflict and migration potential in and beyond NATO’s immediate neighbourhood.
NATO was created out of the Cold War, and was intended to defend its members from any external aggression. It is changing to reflect the new security reality. Actorless threatsPandemics, biodiversity loss, and climate change are all examples of these challenges. NATO cannot ignore these challenges as a security organization. NATO cannot ignore these challenges if it is to fulfill its core mission, which is to keep the Euro-Atlantic region safe. Building resilience to climate change and integrating sustainable practices into military plans and capability development are essential.
The good news? The Alliance isn’t starting from scratch. NATO has been addressing environmental challenges for more than 50 years. This has been done mainly through a wide range scientific research activities. NATO has also contributed to the development of six environmental protection standards(STANAGs), which concern military camps and management of waste. The 2010 Strategic Concept included climate change considerations and has been incorporated into summit declarations ever since. NATO adopted a Green Defence Framework in 2014 and integrated energy efficiency and environmental considerations into its current headquarters. This was completed in 2018. The Building blocksClimate security is a visible and more ambitious role.
NATO, an alliance of 30 countries, works by consensus. This consensus is constantly evolving. Jens Stoltenberg was a former UN Special Representative on Climate Change. He began advocating for NATO’s climate-related action years ago. stymiedDuring the previous U.S. Administration. The Increasing number of weather-related and climate disasters, which continue to impact lives and livelihoods both within and outside of NATO’s borders, has marked an evident shift in awareness and acceptance of climate change as an issue of national security across the Alliance. NATO is poised for a more ambitious climate agenda due to increasing social pressure and the current political momentum that includes renewed U.S. leadership.
COP26 was the first time that Paris had reviewed 2015’s commitments. Despite being a major source of greenhouse gas emissions militaries have not been subjected to any economy-wide emission reduction targets. Except for several Allies (such as France, Germany, the Netherlands, the UK, and the US) that already produce such estimates, military emissions are neither measured, nor reported – either due to a lack of data or because military emissions are treated as sensitive information. Even when military emissions have been measured, the metrics are inconsistent across the board.
NATO can assist Allies in their efforts to reduce emissions and adapt by setting net zero targets and sustainable goals for defence planning. It can also shift away from its single-fuel policy towards more sustainable alternatives or through different standardization arrangements, as described below. The Alliance is set to Develop a methodologyTo help Allies measure their military emission and then formulate voluntary goals for their reduction.
NATO can contribute to international climate efforts by supporting Allies in their adaptation and emission reduction efforts.
One of NATO’s biggest assets is its Network of partnersAll over the globe, and established relations with other international and regional organisations, including the United Nations (UN), European Union (EU), and Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe. This network is vital for both capacity- and resilience-building as well as improved situational awareness.
Second, NATO provides a platform where Allies can come together to exchange expertise, best practices and lessons learned – almost on a daily basis. Military leaders need to share their lessons learned in order to better understand the benefits and challenges of green transition. Canada has offered to host the NATO-accredited Centre of Excellence on Climate and Security, as well as the existing Centre on Energy SecurityLithuanian-based clearinghouses will play a key role in providing information on climate impacts and the green shift.
Third, climate change is driving the need for Allied militaries that can provide humanitarian assistance and natural catastrophe response. Many such missions have been undertaken by NATO countries, including in Northern Iraq in 1991 and Pakistan in 2005. NATO has gained a lot of experience over the years in responding to natural and humanitarian disasters. The Alliance can now utilize its planning and preparedness capabilities in order to address the effects climate-related events, such as heatwaves or flooding.
Finally, NATO has a long-standing and successful track record as a standard-setting organization. Through the Standardization agreements(STANAGs), NATO can establish standards for how Allied militaries operate and what equipment they use. The Alliance can help build the resilience of NATO bases, operations, and Allies, and also help them adapt to climate impacts. It can also ensure that military equipment is climate-friendly and works well in extreme weather conditions. NATO can also be a leader in the development and research of alternative fuels and propulsion systems that can be used for military purposes. This would ensure NATO forces are interoperable.
In turn, NATO’s climate standards can translate into buying power and market making opportunities. The white fleet, which includes vehicles used for administrative and other purposes, is a promising place to begin. Allied militaries could electrify their white fleets. This would make it possible for more charging stations to be built and support infrastructure to be built. This will benefit society in general. Allied militaries, as early adopters, can further advance societal changes.
Already, the Alliance is able to deal with the effects of environmental change. NATO must shift its focus from being able to respond to natural disasters to being able to train for crisis management scenarios. Preventive and emergency preparedness. NATO must address root causes by improving its early warning, strategic foresight and early action capabilities. Early warning tools are currently not interoperable across diplomatic, defense and development communities (known as the “3Ds”), which adds to the challenge. Integration will be a significant step forward.
In addition to integrating data analytics in a more interoperable way, environmental and ecological concerns should be incorporated into Allied intelligence assessments — all while making intelligence more anticipatory. This would help to increase NATO’s capacity to forecast future environmental shocks and be prepared to respond in time.
Contrary to popular belief, there is no contradiction between NATO’s “greening” efforts and the Alliance’s ability to effectively deter and defend. Emissions reductions combined with green technologies offer operational advantages. These IncludeReduced dependence on fossil fuels in areas of high security, logistical challenges reduced, or financial savings. The American B-52 engine replacement programmeFor example, it will reduce fuel consumption and the overall environmental impact, while increasing aircraft range and endurance. The business world has realized that protecting the environment and combating climate pollution are not incompatible with economic growth. It is essential to ensure that there is a future world in which to build an industry. The security world must also recognize that environmental sustainability is part of operational reach and effectiveness.
Climate change is a threat multiplier that poses a danger to Allied populations. The NATO 2030 Young Leaders Group concluded in early 2021 that, in order to fulfil its core mission of keeping the Euro-Atlantic space safe and free, NATO needs to “understand the conflict and instability implications of climate change, better prepare for future shocks, adapt its forces to extreme circumstances and reduce its own ecological footprint.” Raising not just ambition but also action will require steady leadership toward building political consensus, as well as the alignment of the civilian and military sides of the Alliance. NATO must draw upon its more than 50-years of experience in dealing with environmental issues, and demonstrate that it can lead by example on climate safety and that it is a viable force for the future.