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Research Article

Carbon Warriors: Enhancing NATO’s Response to Climate Change

Pages 30-39 | Published online: 09 Aug 2023


NATO’s response to climate change has, to date, focused on adjusting its planning and equipment to adapt to the predicted effects of a warming world and reduce its organisational emissions to comply with government mandates. Richard Milburn argues that NATO should take a more active approach, doing more to mitigate climate change by utilising its strategy, planning, purchasing, technological development, and operational capabilities and resources. Such an approach would help to address the security risks associated with climate change, and deliver significant benefits to military operations, such as reducing key diesel and jet fuel supply chain vulnerabilities on operations.

COP 26 led to increased interest in the contribution of military emissions to climate change, and the military response has focused on reducing those emissions and adapting their capability to retain operational effectiveness in a climate-changed world.Footnote1 Climate change has been accepted as a fait accompli, with little NATO effort to prevent warming beyond changing their own internal operations. This article argues that, given both the security threat of climate change and the opportunities for military capability enhancement through working to prevent it, NATO militaries should be actively engaged in driving much larger global efforts to mitigate climate change, rather than only focusing on reducing their own emissions.

The article begins by setting out the current NATO approach to addressing climate change, discussing the work and targets that have already been developed while also highlighting the internal focus of such efforts, which will do little to mitigate global climate change. The article therefore proposes three key areas in which NATO militaries should more actively engage.

First, the development of a grand strategy to overcome current failing inter-governmental efforts to reduce emissions, in order to drive the world towards a low carbon, more prosperous economy and prevent temperature rises beyond 2 °C. Second, building on current approaches already undertaken by NATO, the article uses an imagined Camp Bastion 2.0 to demonstrate how NATO can use deployments and military real estate to develop new technologies and creative ways of thinking to address climate change. This in turn offers an opportunity to develop new equipment that will reduce supply chain vulnerabilities and enhance warfighting capabilities, as well as driving forward the grand strategy. Third, expanding the deployment of military resources to support biodiversity conservation and restoration activities to maintain and enhance the earth’s carbon sequestration and disaster risk reduction capacity, while creating a space to develop COIN and conventional capabilities in a low-risk, permissive, but real-life operational environment.

The central contention is that NATO should engage more actively in preventing climate change not solely because of the security threat it poses, but because addressing it opens up opportunities to enhance war-fighting capabilities. The assertion is that even commanders who think that climate change is irrelevant to the military should still support efforts to counteract it, based purely on the benefits that doing so will provide to NATO militaries.

AI-generated concept art of renewable technology. Courtesy of Peter / Adobe Stock

AI-generated concept art of renewable technology. Courtesy of Peter / Adobe Stock

In considering what NATO should do to help prevent climate change, this article draws inspiration from the US strategy developed by Andy Marshall and James Roche to identify and exploit the US’s competitive economic advantage over the Soviet Union to bring an end to the Cold War,Footnote2 as well as concepts such as the proposed ‘Star Wars’ missile defence system and President John F Kennedy’s Moonshot. The same strategic insight, creative thinking and targeted use of resources is needed to address climate change, and will in turn bring about enhanced NATO capabilities.

NATO’s Response to Climate Change

The US military has been highlighting the risks of climate change to its own operations, capabilities and infrastructure, and wider security for many years, both among serving and retired personnel.Footnote3 While other militaries have been slower to integrate the threat into their considerations, that has changed rapidly over the course of the past few years. For example, the UK government adopted a legally binding commitment to Net Zero by 2050; as the MoD is responsible for around 50% of central government emissions, that has created a significant demand for change to its operations.Footnote4 The EU also published its first Climate Change and Defence Roadmap in 2020, identifying short-, medium- and long-term measures militaries can take to become more aware of the risk from climate change and adjust their operations and infrastructure to reduce emissions and improve sustainability.Footnote5

At the same time, the size of military emissions is attracting greater scrutiny from researchers and the media.Footnote6 As major consumers of energy and fuel, militaries are large carbon emitters; US military emissions in 2017 were larger than the total emissions of Sweden, Denmark and Portugal,Footnote7 and total worldwide military emissions are estimated to account for 5.5% of annual global emissions.Footnote8

In response, NATO militaries published a growing range of reports and plans in the run up to COP26 in November 2021 and beyond, and they continue to develop capabilities and initiatives to address climate change, such as Canada’s launch of a NATO Climate Change and Security Centre of Excellence.Footnote9 Some have even adopted more ambitious aims, such as the RAF’s 2040 Net Zero target.Footnote10 While NATO is engaging with the issue of climate change, it is notable that it views it as a fait accompli and therefore focuses on reducing its own emissions to meet legal commitments and adapting its internal capabilities to operate effectively in a climate changed world, as opposed to preventing climate change from happening.Footnote11 When NATO speaks of contributing to mitigating climate change, it is in the context of reducing its own organisational emissions and supporting understanding of energy demands by militaries to inform government investments,Footnote12 not a larger external effort to rapidly reduce worldwide emissions to achieve global net zero.

Beyond that internal focus and adoption of a ‘fast follower approach’ to technology procurement,Footnote13 little is discussed in terms of what militaries could or should do to prevent rising emissions and temperatures to prevent climate change. For example, in NATO’s 2022 Annual Climate Change and Security Impact Assessment, mitigation is referred to only four times, and each time focuses on NATO’s internal operations.Footnote14 While reducing NATO emissions is important, given the security threats associated with climate change that NATO has identified, to ignore the other 95% of global emissions is not an adequate response to the threat.

Defence has traditionally been involved in preventing malevolent actors conducting activity detrimental to their states, in preventing nuclear proliferation and in securing key resources for home countries to thrive. Given that climate change has been recognised as a global threat multiplier to security, the case for greater military involvement to prevent it is therefore strong. The following sections set out the opportunities and benefits of military involvement in leading and delivering the global fight against climate change, starting with the development of a new grand strategy.

Figure 1: Proposed Three-pronged Strategy Model to Address Climate Change

Figure 1: Proposed Three-pronged Strategy Model to Address Climate Change

Learning from the Cold War to Prevent a Warming World

Because of the ‘free-rider’ problems associated with carbon emissions reductions by individual nation states, reducing national emissions is not sufficient to guarantee global reductions.Footnote15 Much climate change policy currently focuses on international meetings and agreements such as COP 26, which have failed to reduce emissions to the levels the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) deems necessary to avoid a rise in global temperatures of 1.5 or even 2 °C.Footnote16 A lack of clear, effective strategy is hampering efforts to fight climate change.Footnote17 A new approach is therefore required, developing a grand strategy that leverages the economic, military and cultural power and influence of NATO states to transition the world to a low carbon future. A possible three-pronged strategy NATO militaries could develop and deliver in partnership with government and the private sector is set out in Figure 1.

The central element is the focus on creating reliable, cheap, abundant clean electricity. This can be conceived of much like the ‘Moonshot’ of President Kennedy; a challenging, but clearly defined goal, which requires significant human and financial resource to make it a success, but which can deliver significant positive impact.Footnote18 In the case of climate change, providing reliable, cheap, abundant, clean electricity solves the free-rider problem of carbon emissions; similar to the economics of Marshall and Roche’s Cold War strategy, it would make the continued use of fossil fuels economically unsustainable while also providing the volume of electricity needed to support global economic activity and create the clean fuels needed to replace some fossil fuels, such as green hydrogen and synthetic jet fuel.Footnote19 Should any country resist that change, NATO governments could adopt targeted carbon taxes, for example targeting products produced using coal-derived electricity. At the same time, the strategic approach’s focus on electricity production would prevent the energy dependence vulnerabilities exposed by the war in Ukraine.Footnote20

The rapid creation of cheap, clean, reliable and abundant electricity is the ‘magic bullet’ for solving climate change. It provides a profitable route to reducing emissions, where countries become electricity producers rather than fossil-fuel producers, delivering the crucial economic incentive to de-carbonise. It also enables the major expansion of the electricity grid required to support the clean electrification of an economy, such as the growing use of electric vehicles.Footnote21 And with cheap and abundant electricity, fuels such as green hydrogen and synthetic aviation and diesel fuel become economically viable, enabling rapid de-carbonisation of industries that will otherwise take decades to reduce emissions.

In addition to driving clean electricity production up and costs down, the other elements of the strategy provide wider deliverables that are key to reducing short-term warming effects and delivering long-term emissions control and reductions. Increasing the carbon sequestration capacity of the earth, to absorb remaining annual carbon emissions and start to draw down the levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere over time, is vital to achieving net zero emissions and preventing an increase of more than 2 °C in global average temperatures.Footnote22 Similarly, a focus on rapidly reducing methane emissions will cut out a gas with an estimated 10 times warming impact of CO2 but which breaks down within a decade, slowing a temperature rise in the short-term and buying time for a longer-term full-scale solution.Footnote23

The exact details of how to achieve each element of the strategy remain flexible; as with all good strategy, this avoids picking winners and instead lets research, innovation and market forces flourish to deliver change.Footnote24 The role of NATO militaries would be twofold. First, to develop the strategy and lead its implementation, driving forward the innovation and collaboration necessary to achieve success and focus on the ‘magic bullet’ of clean electricity production. Second, to deliver specific elements of the strategy, in particular providing support to conservation operations to improve carbon sequestration, developing new technologies to create reliable, abundant, cheap, clean electricity and using internal innovation and procurement to drive behaviour change to reduce emissions. As will be shown in the following sections, such activity not only helps to prevent climate change, reducing global security threats NATO has already identified from a warming world, but also offers militaries the opportunity to engage in operations in permissive environments that enable them to test, teach and innovate new tactics and technologies that can improve counterinsurgency and conventional warfighting capabilities.

Innovation to Fight Climate Change and Enhance Military Capability

The US is estimated to have spent $2.313 trillion in Afghanistan.Footnote25 The availability of funds and the expense of warfare offers opportunities for innovation in equipment, infrastructure and all elements of the supply chain that could be deemed too expensive during peacetime. Such innovations could provide critical technologies to fight climate change, which would also enhance core warfighting and wider defence capabilities. To provide some illustrative, although by no means exhaustive, examples of this, a selection of technologies that could be integrated into an imagined future climate-friendly ‘Camp Bastion 2.0’ are set out below, building on innovation that NATO is already carrying out within this space.Footnote26

Military operations depend on energy and fuel, creating vulnerabilities in supply chains in theatres of war and imposing large costs; for example, the US army is estimated to have had to spend $400 per gallon for some deliveries of fuel in Afghanistan.Footnote27 Developing deployable energy infrastructure to create an energy-independent Camp Bastion 2.0 would significantly enhance military capability and the technologies developed would help to achieve the first, key part of the strategy set out earlier. For example, modular nuclear reactors,Footnote28 innovative deep-drill geothermal technology to enable almost anywhere in the world to exploit heat from the earth’s core to generate electricity,Footnote29 or space-based solar power delivered by directed microwave radiation to bases might all be deployed to deliver energy independence.Footnote30 These all require only a relatively small space to operate, and deliver reliable, high-energy output throughout the day, making them appropriate for foreign deployments where large solar or wind farms would not be viable due to both space and security considerations, and their intermittent outputs.

With those sources of energy on base, synthetic fuel production plants could be utilised to create the diesel and jet fuel needed for vehicles on site, refined at a molecular level to deliver highest performance.Footnote31 Few, if any, logistical resupply movements of fuel would be required to the base, reducing costs, supply chain vulnerabilities and threat to life on logistical operations, while still allowing military vehicles to operate on diesel and aviation fuel. Until battery technology drastically improves, heavy armour, long-range transport vehicles, and jets will need to continue to run on conventional fuels. An ability to produce such fuels on site reduces logistical fuel supply operations and the associated risks; for example, it is estimated that between 2003 and 2007 in deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan, 3,000 US personnel were killed or wounded on water and fuel supply convoys.Footnote32 It also ensures an independent source of key fuels in future if global demand for such fossil fuel-derived products reduces, lowering the risk that securing fuel for military equipment such as tanks may become more difficult and more costly as the world decarbonises.Footnote33

The development of those systems would support the implementation of the strategy outlined earlier, delivering the technologies required to provide reliable, abundant, cheap, clean electricity. It also shows how the world could transition to a low carbon economy before transport fully converts to electric propulsion, by using synthetic, net zero fuels to power the world’s internal combustion engines.Footnote34 Military procurement offers the opportunity to advance those technologies, to create increased demand to reduce costs and to secure the intellectual property for NATO countries to exploit for wider commercial gain and emissions reduction.Footnote35

To further reduce supply chain vulnerability, water recycling systems could be deployed, such as those developed by 2021 Earthshot finalists WOTA, saving the need and expense of supplying bottled water.Footnote36 Similarly, small-scale waste-to-energy systems could provide gas for cookhouses as well as dealing effectively with sewage and reducing the negative health impacts on NATO personnel caused by the use of ‘burn pits’.Footnote37 Modular plastic greenhouses using three-dimensional farming techniques could be deployed on top of buildings to grow expensive, easily expired fruit and vegetables to reduce supply costs and enhance nutrition, and growing ‘green walls’ could reduce energy costs and improve personnel comfort by naturally regulating internal building temperature as well as helping to camouflage buildings to reduce ease of identification of high-value targets.Footnote38 Recycled plastic extra-strong ‘bricks’ could provide cheap, eco-friendly building materials with strong blast protection, made from locally sourced plastic waste, reducing the costs of importing materials and improving the environmental impact of operations.Footnote39

Not all of these technologies would necessarily be appropriate for the base, and there are many more not listed here that would be useful. The key point being made is that setting the challenge to planners to develop a climate friendly and operationally effective Camp Bastion 2.0 will lead to innovation that is useful for addressing climate change, enhancing military capability and reducing costs; necessity becomes the mother of invention.

In addition to making a climate-friendly Camp Bastion 2.0 more logistically secure and less costly to operate, it would also need to deliver enhanced defensive and kinetic kill capabilities through the equipment employed. The war in Ukraine has demonstrated the effectiveness of small weapon systems against armour,Footnote40 and the ongoing deployment of drones has shown how uncrewed autonomous vehicles can consume less power, operate for longer, and still maintain their kinetic kill capability. A Camp Bastion 2.0 could therefore launch a ‘carbon kills’ competition for arms manufacturers and defence engineers to develop weapon systems and equipment with lower emissions, build and running costs, and higher stealth and kinetic kill capabilities. For example, semi-autonomous electric land vehicles could be utilised to gain advantage against enemy equipment,Footnote41 and electric drones could be used to overcome complex air-defence systems.Footnote42 Not only could such a competition require a reduction in carbon emissions from equipment, it could also include a critical minerals assessment, identifying materials and techniques to reduce the use of rare earth elements, over which China has control of mining and processing.Footnote43

To deliver those results would require creative thinking and innovation, so could be supported by a ‘Bletchley Park for Climate Change’, engaging creative thinkers, scientists and engineers – Churchill’s ‘Corkscrew’ thinkers who delivered great innovations during the Second World War and beyond.Footnote44 Such a unit could use the latest technology to sift the internet for ideas as well as using the creative flair of individuals to develop lateral ideas and solutions to address climate change and enhance military capability. The unit would enable more ‘living labs’ to be created, bringing together the best minds from the civilian and military sectors to drive forward action on climate change and enhance military capability, expanding and enhancing efforts such as Project ViTAL at RAF Leeming.Footnote45

Such a unit could develop ‘Moonshot’ thinking outside of deployed bases to deliver a bigger benefit to NATO nations; this could include genetically modifying crops to grow in greenhouses on the edges of deserts to provide a source of biomass to generate electricity or biofuels, without impinging on existing arable land used for food production. Innovation in concentrated solar power could turn NATO’s US deserts into power plants without relying on Chinese-made photo-voltaic cells and the associated volume of materials required to produce them for such large surface areas.Footnote46 A climate version of the ‘Star Wars’ missile defence system could even be created, viewing the security threat from carbon emissions as akin to an enemy weapon system, and creating a network of carbon capture and storage facilities to pull carbon out of the atmosphere. Current plants, such as the Orca facility in Norway owned by Climeworks, already deliver this on a small scale and at high cost,Footnote47 but NATO procurement could rapidly expand the deployment of such technology, bringing costs down significantly in the process.

The key point with the above examples is not the specific solutions, but the underlying principle that NATO should take a more active role in mitigating climate change beyond reducing its internal emissions, and that doing so will both help to enhance global security by reducing the security threats associated with climate change, and develop technology that will enhance NATO’s war-fighting capability, such as new weapon systems and synthetic fuels to allow for reduced fuel supply chain vulnerability. The next section builds further on these two points, demonstrating how increased NATO involvement in biodiversity protection and restoration would help sequester carbon emissions and enhance NATO’s war-fighting capabilities in both the counterinsurgency and wider asymmetric spaces.

Defending Biodiversity

The various ecosystems of the world, marine and terrestrial, provide vital carbon sinks, natural capital, and disaster risk reduction in a proven and cost-effective manner, and are therefore vitally important not only to address climate change but for continued prosperity of national and global populations.Footnote48 The UK MoD is already undertaking activity to increase the carbon sequestration capacity of its estate, which is about 1% of UK land, such as an initiative to plant 2 million trees.Footnote49 Such activity benefits training areas and climate change, but militaries should look beyond their own estates in order to have a greater effect on protecting and restoring biodiversity to enhance global carbon sequestration.

The British Army’s Operation Corded is one example of what NATO militaries could do to protect biodiversity and the benefits that such operations provide to core military capabilities. Operation Corded was deployed to Zambia at the invitation of the Zambian Government from 2020–22 to assist the Department for National Parks and Wildlife (DNPW) and the National Anti-Poaching Taskforce (NAPTF) in their efforts to counter the illegal wildlife trade; the latter is a combination of Army, Air Force, Police and National Service personnel to support DNPW in counter-poaching operations.Footnote50 The Zambian deployment followed previous Corded iterations in Malawi to support government efforts to counter the illegal wildlife trade (IWT), as well as further training missions in Gabon, Kenya and Sierra Leone.

The Corded model demonstrates how NATO militaries can provide support to a range of host nation governments to develop partnerships to enhance their ability to counter the illegal wildlife trade and protect biodiversity within their borders. A key insight from Operation Corded is to frame IWT in and around a National Park as a low-intensity COIN environment; a large human population is disillusioned with conservation authorities due to living in poverty and not getting benefits from conservation, which organised criminal groups seize upon to pay people to poach wildlife.Footnote51 By framing counter IWT (CIWT) activity as a low-intensity COIN environment and focusing on the non-kinetic, so-called ‘left-of-bang’ interventions, army doctrine can be utilised and adapted to the situation and a significant effect on CIWT achieved, without the risk of military intervention leading to an escalation in violence experienced by local communities or an increased arms race between organised crime groups and wildlife protection authorities. An effective NATO intervention can therefore avoid the criticism levelled against the ‘militarisation’ of conservation,Footnote52 such as criticisms of the Colombian military’s Operation Artemis to prevent deforestation in the Amazon.Footnote53

However, despite this enhanced understanding of the problem, the British Army’s role is still restricted to providing training to enhance counter-poaching operations, rather than addressing the root causes of the problem and delivering a full-spectrum effect to solve IWT. A strategy has been set out in a recent British Army Review article for how to expand Corded’s impact, taking a cross-governmental approach to CIWT to address the global and local root causes of the problem and have a major impact on ending the trade, but that has yet to be adopted.Footnote54 That much larger, holistic operation would deliver the greatest effects on climate change and enhancing COIN capabilities. For example, Kafue National Park, where some of the training was based, is the size of Wales; by engaging in a larger operation to address the root causes of poaching and restore large migrating herds to the park, the vast ecosystem could be enhanced, increasing its carbon sequestration potential.Footnote55

At the same time, such an operation would provide space to: test and develop new equipment to support military operations at reach; to teach and innovate COIN doctrine and capabilities to prepare commanders for future conflicts; and to develop the skills and relationships needed to deliver the crucial non-kinetic civil-military cooperation projects that are necessary to succeed in a COIN environment, but which are often overlooked due to a greater focus placed on kinetic strikes and law enforcement, which treat the symptoms but not the cause.Footnote56 Indeed, as CIWT offers a permissive, relatively low-risk environment and CIWT and COIN operations share so many similarities, there is a strong argument to expand the size of the Corded operation simply to improve the British Army’s COIN expertise in preparation for future conflict, irrespective of the operation’s climate change or CIWT value.

While supporting conservation operations on land can help to sequester carbon and deliver multiple benefits for militaries, as set out above, supporting maritime conservation could provide even bigger carbon sequestration value. The oceans absorb the majority of emissions, multiple times that of terrestrial ecosystems, in what is termed ‘blue carbon’.Footnote57 Protecting and restoring coastal marine systems, such as mangrove forests and coral reefs, enhances carbon sequestration, helps reduce the risk and intensity of damage from natural disasters, and increases incomes of fishermen and others who depend on those areas for their livelihoods.Footnote58 Although oceans absorb huge amounts of carbon, they are reaching their limits as the seas warm and become more acidic, disturbing marine ecosystems. By supporting the establishment and protection of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs), NATO navies could secure the key breeding grounds that would enable marine life to recover, enhancing the carbon sequestration capability of the world’s oceans.Footnote59

NATO navies have deployed to prevent piracy along the shores of Somalia, and the US DoD is estimated to spend $81 billion per year protecting oil.Footnote60 Using a similar framework, navies could be deployed to protect MPAs in the key ocean and coastal waters that are vital for human prosperity and sequestering carbon. As with CIWT, success would need not only law enforcement, but also combined developmental activity to win the support of coastal populations and fishermen, helping them to understand that they will be better off with conservation, as well as international cooperation on the high seas. Those Naval MPA protection operations also offer an opportunity to enhance marine technology, developing new capabilities to identify small and large fishing vessels alike and rapidly deploying capabilities to intercept them. Those capabilities are likely to be crucial in future asymmetric naval warfare, such as may be expected against Iran or against China in the South China Sea.Footnote61

The key point to make about the above suggested operations for NATO is not only their carbon sequestration value (although that is of course useful in global efforts to fight climate change), but also the permissive but real-life operational environment they provide to develop tactics and equipment to enhance military capability. Defending biodiversity will not and should not be NATO’s highest priority or an activity which requires large deployment of NATO equipment and personnel. Instead, NATO efforts should be formed of relatively small deployments, which can nevertheless deliver a big positive impact.Footnote62 Even those commanders sceptical about the military’s role in addressing climate change should still be able to see the military benefit of engaging in the operations set out above purely for the opportunities they provide to enhance capability.


This article has sought to advance the case for NATO militaries to work towards more actively preventing climate change as opposed to simply adapting to it by reducing their internal emissions and altering their equipment and capabilities, not only to help prevent a significant security threat but, perhaps as importantly, to seize an opportunity to enhance NATO’s core war-fighting capabilities. Doing so would offer the opportunity for NATO military organisations to demonstrate the strategic vision, innovation and creative flair that defined them through the Second World War and Cold War and was key to the West’s success.

At time of writing, newspapers are full of reviews for the Operation Mincemeat musical, about a successful, creative UK deception operation against Nazi Germany. The same creative flair and clearly developed strategy that delivered the Operation Mincemeat success and other similar innovative operations and capabilities should now be applied to climate change. Not only will it help to reduce the security threat associated with a warming world, it will also provide NATO militaries with enhanced capabilities and drive forward the creativity and innovation that is critical for military success. Put simply, fighting climate change helps to prevent a global threat to security and provides an opportunity to develop new thinking and new capabilities that will help NATO militaries to get better at fighting current and future conflicts, against conventional and unconventional forces alike. n

Additional information

Notes on contributors

Richard Milburn

Richard Milburn is Lecturer in Environmental Security at King’s College London.


1 .UN Climate Change Conference, ‘COP26’, 2021, <>, accessed 5 July 2023.

2 .Richard P Rumelt, Good Strategy Bad Strategy: The Difference and Why it Matters (London: Profile Books, 2013), pp. 28–31.

3 .See, for example, CNA Military Advisory Board, ‘National Security and the Accelerating Risks of Climate Change’, CNA Corporation, May 2014, and Department of Defense (DOD), ‘Department of Defense Draft Climate Adaptation Plan’, Washington, DC, September 2021.

4 .Ministry of Defence (MoD), ‘Climate Change and Sustainability Strategic Approach’, London 2021.

5 .For a more complete analysis and provision of examples of EU and NATO militaries’ policies, strategies and commitments, see: Linsey Cottrell and Doug Weir, ‘EU Military Greening Policies: A Review of Transparency and Implementation’, Conflict and Environmental Observatory Project (CEOBS), Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire, January 2023, <>, accessed 29 June 2023.

6 .The CEOBS launched a specific project on military emissions during COP 26, see ‘The Military Emissions Gap’, <>, accessed 28 April 2022.

7 .Neta C Crawford, ‘Pentagon Fuel Use, Climate Change, and the Costs of War’, Costs of War, 13 November 2019, <>, accessed 28 April 2022.

8 .Stuart Parkinson and Lindsey Cottrell, Estimating the Military’s Global Greenhouse Gas Emissions (Lancaster and Mytholmroyd: Scientists for Global Responsibility and Conflict and Environment Observatory), 2022, <>, accessed 30 May 2023.

9 .See Government of Canada, ‘NATO Climate Change and Security Centre of Excellence’, <>, accessed 6 June 2023.

10 .Air Chief Marshal Mike Wigston, ‘The RAF and Net Zero 2040’, talk given at King’s College London, 24 November 2021, <>, accessed 28 April 2022.

11 .Department of Defense, ‘Department of Defense Draft Climate Adaptation Plan’, September 2021, <>, accessed 30 May 2023; and MoD, ‘Climate Change and Sustainability Strategic Approach’.

12 .See, for example, NATO, ‘NATO Climate Change and Security Action Plan’, 14 June 2021, <>, accessed 30 May 2023.

13 .MoD, ‘Climate Change and Sustainability Strategic Approach’.

14 .NATO, ‘Climate Change and Security Impact Assessment, The Secretary General’s Report’, 28 June 2022, <>, accessed 30 May 2023.

15 .Natalie M Roy, ‘Climate Change’s Free Rider Problem: Why We Must Relinquish Freedom to Become Free’, William and Mary Environmental Legal and Policy Review (Vol. 45, No. 3, 2021), pp. 821–57.

16 .Ehsan Masood and Jeff Tollefson, ‘“COP26 hasn’t Solved the Problem”: Scientists React to UN Climate Deal’, Nature, 15 November 2021, <>, accessed 28 April 2022.

17 .John Doerr, Speed and Scale: A Global Action Plan for Solving Our Climate Crisis Now (London: Penguin Business, 2021).

18 .That Moonshot approach has already been the inspiration for efforts to fight climate change, such as the Royal Foundation’s Earthshot Prize, see ‘John F Kennedy Library Foundation Joins the Earthshot Prize on Anniversary of Moonshot Speech’, 13 September 2021, <>, accessed 28 April 2022.

19 .The Economist, ‘Hydrogen’s Moment is Here at Last’, 9 October 2021.

20 .See, for example, Madeline Cuff, ‘Energy Bills Rise: Getting Rid of Gas Storage Facilities Has Left the UK Exposed to Shortages and Price Hikes’, INews, 3 February 2022, <>, accessed 28 April 2022; and Melissa Eddy, ‘Why Germany Can’t Just Pull the Plug on Russian Energy’, New York Times, 2 April 2022.

21 .Economist Technology Quarterly, ‘The Electric Grid is about to be Transformed’, 8 April 2023.

22 .Paul Hawken, Regeneration: Ending the Climate Crisis in One Generation (London: Penguin, 2021).

23 .Fred Pearce, ‘Why Methane is a Large and Underestimated Threat to Climate Goals’, Yale 360, 24 February 2022, <>, accessed 28 April 2022.

24 .The Economist, ‘Leviathan Inc’, 5 August 2010.

25 .Costs of War, ‘US Costs to Date for the War in Afghanistan, in $ Billions FY2001–2022’, August 2021, <>, accessed 28 April 2022.

26 .For more examples of efforts underway within NATO to reduce internal emissions and develop capabilities that are assessed to be necessary to adapt to climate change and a global economy using fewer fossil fuels, see Department of Defense Sustainability Plan 2022, <>, accessed 6 June 2023; see also Ministry of Defence, ‘Strategic Command Sustainable Support Strategy 2022’, <>, accessed 6 June 2023.

27 .Nathan Hodge, ‘US’s Afghan Headache: $400-a-Gallon Gasoline’, Wall Street Journal, 6 December 2011.

28 .The Pentagon is moving forward with a project in this space, see Aaron Mehta, ‘Portable Nuclear Reactor Project Moves Forward at Pentagon’, Defense News, 23 March 2021.

29 .David Roberts, ‘Geothermal Energy is Poised for a Big Breakout’, VOX, 21 October 2020, <>, accessed 28 April 2022.

30 .The Week, ‘Power Stations in Space: How this Science Fiction Concept is being “Taken Seriously”’, 22 April 2022.

31 .Carbon Engineering has a plant in Canada producing synthetic fuels from CO2 in the air combined with water, produced with renewable energy; the resulting fuel is therefore net zero in terms of carbon emissions, see ‘How CO2 Could be the Future of Fuel’, VICE News, <>, accessed 28 April 2022.

32 .NATO, ‘NATO and its Partners Become Smarter on Energy’, press release, 7 April 2015, <>, accessed 31 May 2023.

33 .Duncan Depledge, ‘Low-carbon Warfare: Climate Change, Net Zero and Military Operations’, International Affairs (Vol. 99, No. 2, 2023), pp. 674–75.

34 .This also makes the wider point of why a strategy is so important – the exact solutions to deliver reduced emissions are not yet known, and there are multiple different ways in which net zero can be achieved, so keeping options open to identify the most effective approach offers the best chance for success.

35 .Such an approach would align with the German government’s efforts to continue to allow the sale of internal combustion vehicles beyond 2035 if they run on synthetic efuels, and shows the potentially large civilian and military market for such efuels; see, Joshua Posaner, ‘Germany’s Not-so-green Fix to Save the Car Engine’, Politico, 9 March 2023, <>, accessed 6 June 2023.

36 .See WOTA, ‘The Earthshot Prize Selects WOTA as the Only Finalist from Japan’, 17 September 2021, <>, accessed 28 April 2022.

37 .Edward Helmore, ‘Toxic Burn Pits Put the Health of US Veterans at Risk. Can a New Law Help?’, The Guardian, 13 March 2022.

38 .An example of how these technologies can be used comes from Wageningen University campus in the Netherlands, which the author has visited. See <>, accessed 28 June 2023.

39 .See, for example, the Kenyan company making bricks from waste plastic: Edwin Waita, ‘Kenyan Recycles Plastic Waste into Bricks Stronger than Concrete’, Reuters, 2 February 2021.

40 .See, for example, The Economist, ‘How Tanks Can Survive Against Cheap, Shoulder-fired Missiles’, 2 April 2022.

41 .See, for example, Michael Dempsey, ‘Robot Tanks: On Patrol but Not Allowed to Shoot’, BBC, 21 January 2020.

42 .Recent conflicts have shown the value of drones and loitering munitions against more complex weapons systems. See, for example, Tom Kington, ‘The Drone Defense Dilemma: How Unmanned Aircraft are Redrawing Battle Lines’, Defense News, 15 February 2021.

43 .See, for example, Rodrigo Castillo and Caitlin Purdy, ‘China’s Role in Supplying Critical Minerals for the Global Energy Transition What Could the Future Hold?’, Brookings Institution, July 2022, <>, accessed 30 May 2023.

44 .See, for example, Neil Finnie, ‘Corkscrew Thinking Won the War. Here’s How to Use it in Business’, The Guardian, 7 April 2017.

45 .See Newcastle University, ‘Newcastle University Supports RAF’s Pathway to Net Zero’, press release, 18 November 2021, <>, accessed 28 April 2022.

46 .Such approaches need not be solely restricted to NATO nations and could include wider partnerships such as within the Five Eyes community, utilising the vast deserts of Australia to develop these initiatives, for example, building on work already underway in North Africa but taking greater consideration of cultural issues from activity in the desert. See Fred Pearce, ‘In Scramble for Clean Energy, Europe Is Turning to North Africa’, Yale 360, 16 February 2023, <>, accessed 6 June 2023.

47 .Climeworks, ‘Climeworks Begins Operations of Orca, The World’s Largest Direct Air Capture and CO₂ Storage Plant’, press release, 8 September 2021, <>, accessed 31 May 2023.

48 .Fabrice G Renaud, Karen Sudmeier-Rieux and Marisol Estrella (eds), The Role of Ecosystems in Disaster Risk Reduction (Tokyo: United Nations University Press, 2013); Romy Chevallier, Balancing Development and Coastal Conservation: Mangroves in Mozambique, Governance of Africa’s Resources Programme Research Report 14 (Johannesburg: SAAIA, Governance of Africa’s Resources Programme, 2013).

49 .Forces Net, ‘Army to Plant Two Million Trees to Battle Climate Change’, 8 June 2021, <>, accessed 28 April 2022.

50 .Hugo Brewer, ‘Op CORDED – 1st Battalion Irish Guards Tackle Poaching in Zambia’, Sanctuary (Vol. 50, 2021), pp. 24–25.

51 .Stephen Vinall and Richard Milburn, ‘Countering the Illegal Wildlife Trade’, British Army Review (Vol. 181, 2021), pp. 94–103.

52 .Rosaleen Duffy, ‘Waging a War to Save Biodiversity: The Rise of Militarized Conservation’, International Affairs (Vol. 90, No. 4, 2014).

53 .David Tarazona and Julián Parra De Moya, ‘Operation Artemis: Colombia’s Failed Military Operation to Stop Deforestation’, Mongabay, 27 April 2023, <>, accessed 31 May 2023.

54 .Vinall and Milburn, ‘Countering the Illegal Wildlife Trade’.

55 .Increasing migrating herd numbers restores the natural ecosystem and provides key nutrients for soil and flora to flourish. The work of Allan Savory has advanced the knowledge of such systems; see Allan Savory, ‘How to Fight Desertification and Reverse Climate Change’, TED2013, <>, accessed 28 April 2022. The emerging trend of rewilding has also demonstrated the value of restoring natural ecosystems and wildlife population, for example Rewilding Britain, ‘Rewilding and the Climate Emergency’, <>, accessed 28 April 2022.

56 .See, for example, The Economist, ‘What have French Forces Achieved in the Sahel?’, 17 February 2022; and The Economist, ‘A Coup in Mali is Unlikely to Make Matters Better’, 20 August 2020.

57 .Hawken, Regeneration.

58 .Chevallier, Balancing Development and Coastal Conservation: Mangroves in Mozambique.

59 .Ralph Chami et al., ‘Nature’s Solution to Climate Change’, Finance and Development (Vol. 56, Issue 4, 2019), pp. 34–38.

60 .Jonathan Chanis and Paul Ruiz, ‘The Military Cost of Defending the Global Oil Supply’, Securing America’s Future Energy (SAFE), Issue Brief, 21 September 2018, <>, accessed 28 April 2022.

61 .See, for example, Farzin Nadimi, ‘Iran’s Evolving Approach to Naval Asymmetric Warfare: Strategy and Capabilities in the Persian Gulf’, The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Policy Focus 164, April 2020, <>, accessed 28 April 2022; and David Knoll, Kevin Pollpeter and Sam Plapinger, ‘China’s Irregular Approach To War: The Myth Of A Purely Conventional Future Fight’, 27 April 2021, <>, accessed 31 May 2023.

62 .By way of example, the British Army Operation Corded deployments are formed of up to only 30 personnel.