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A Climate Change Framework for the UK’s Ministry of Defence – Lessons for NATO?

Royal_Navy_SAR_Helicopter_on_Big_Torry_Hill,_Ochils_-_geograph.org.uk_-_1660779By Dr. Marc Kodack

The United Kingdom’s Ministry of Defence (MOD) recently commissioned RAND Europe to examine climate change’s effects on MOD’s activities, and its attendant security implications, to assist the MOD in creating an updated climate change strategy. This examination produced a proposed framework for MOD’s leaders to use for assessing climate change risks to its mission, as well as multiple policy recommendations for addressing the challenges and seizing the opportunities climate change presents to the MOD, as it executes its global strategic mission now and out to 2035.

As the MOD prepares its’ climate change strategy, it wanted to understand how climate change will affect its’ activities within the context of eight so-called “Defence Lines of Development (DLOD),” including — Concepts and Doctrine, Personnel, Infrastructure, Equipment, Information, Organization, Logistics, and Interoperability.

As an example, RAND Europe identified the following climate change challenges under the Infrastructure DLOD:

  • Higher or extreme temperatures, both in the UK and overseas, leading to increased stress on facilities as well as the personnel and equipment in those facilities;
  • Increased energy use if more air-conditioned spaces are required resulting in higher greenhouse gas emissions depending on the fuel sources for power, and increased risk of disruptions to supporting infrastructure outside of MOD’s ownership and control, e.g., power generation/transmission, potable water treatment/distribution, highways, railways, or supplier facilities in the MOD supply chain.

Using the information and analysis generated in the development of its proposed framework, RAND Europe offered MOD six recommendations:

  1. Development of a tool, such as the framework, for use in policy formulation because currently there is limited information on how climate change will affect MOD’s activities;
  2. Use of both MOD and non-MOD resources to coordinate and collaborate on climate change effects across UK government departments/agencies and non-government entities to better respond to these effects;
  3. Infusing concepts and doctrine with the implications of climate change to MOD and its implications for national security;
  4. Determining how both MOD and relevant non-MOD domestic/overseas infrastructure will be affected by climate change;
  5. Determining how climate change will affect equipment performance and operation, and what changes may be required to assure equipment availability; and
  6. Creating and/or enhancing MOD-specific information on how climate change affects defense and security.

As the UK MOD writes its climate change strategy using the results of the RAND Europe study, MOD can also offer other defense departments/ministries within the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) advice on how climate change will affect their own strategic activities, the risks, challenges, and opportunities that they will be presented to them, and how they might respond, both domestically and internationally. Sharing information and experiences among NATO member states on how climate change will affect their individual missions and operations will strengthen not only their individual security, but importantly, their collective regional security.

Dr. Marc Kodack is Senior Fellow at the Center for Climate and Security and former Sustainability and Water Program Manager in the Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army for Energy and Sustainability.

* This post is part of the Council on Strategic Risks’ “Responsibility to Prepare and Prevent” Blog Series, designed to increase the tempo and scale of relevant and useful analysis during a time of crisis


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