On February 1, the American Security Project hosted an event titled, “How the United Kingdom is Decarbonizing Defense & Adapting to Climate Change.” Lieutenant General Richard Nugee, Climate Change and Sustainability Strategy Lead for the UK Ministry of Defence, joined then-ASP President Brigadier General Stephen A. Cheney, USMC (Ret.) to discuss the evolution of thinking on climate and defense, challenges of decarbonizing emissions, and current progress made towards the ultimate goal of net-zero emissions 2050 in the United Kingdom.
The discussion opened by addressing the challenges that decarbonizing defense has had on both sides of the Atlantic given the prioritization of mission completion and defense over emission levels. Both Lt. Gen. Nugee and BGen Cheney noted that security and sustainability need not conflict.
Climate change has dramatically changed the world and the geopolitical operating environment. Lt. Gen. Nugee argues that learning to work in an environment affected by climate change is a new reality that needs addressing. By accounting for climate change challenges and investing in necessary preparations, the defense industry can facilitate long-term sustainability and reduce reliance on fossil fuels, ultimately saving lives, releasing other assets, and saving government funds.
The conversation also included the Ministry of Defence Climate Change and Sustainability Strategic Approach, energy independence for forward-deployed forces, the potential of nuclear power, and the institutionalization of climate in defense training and curricula.
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