Towards a climate-proof security and defence policy: a Roadmap for EU action


Today, the virtual event “Climate change, Defence and Crisis Management: from Reflection to Action” discussed the implications of climate change on EU crisis management and defence to provide solutions and foster cooperation. The event, which was co-organised by the EU Institute for Security Studies (EUISS) and the European External Action Service (EEAS), brought together a wide range of actors, including EU institutions and bodies, representatives from EU Member States, partner countries and international organisations, academia and industry.

In his opening statement, High Representative/Vice-President Josep Borrell presented the Climate Change and Defence Roadmap. He said: “As European Union, we have a strong record when it comes to protecting the planet. Now, this ambition also needs to extend to the defence sector to address the increasing links between climate change and defence, both abroad and at home.”

The Roadmap identifies concrete ways for the EU to be better prepared to the emerging security challenges posed by a changing climate. It puts forward a set of concrete actions to raise awareness on the effects of climate change on crisis response, security and defence; to develop capabilities for our armed forces, which can be used under changing circumstances; and to build strong cooperation with international partners to tackle security and defence issues derived from climate change. These actions also support the objectives of the European Green Deal.

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Implementing the Climate Change and Defence Roadmap

The Climate Change and Defence Roadmap proposes concrete actions in three key areas:

  • Operational dimension to enhance situational awareness, early warning and strategic foresight, as well as mainstreaming climate change and environmental aspects into the planning and implementation of CSDP civilian and military missions and operations. It will help us to raise awareness about the impact of climate change on the security environment in which our CSDP missions and operations are deployed.
  • Capability development, focusing on new challenges, such as ensuring that military equipment remains effective under extreme weather conditions and more energy efficient technologies for our missions and operations. It also addresses the reduction of energy demand and increasing energy resilience for our armed forces and their infrastructure in Europe. Ongoing and new actions under this area seek to enhance the energy efficiency of our CSDP engagements, while carrying forward the development and application of new technologies and practices that will reduce the carbon and environmental footprint of the defence sector.
  • Diplomatic outreach in multilateral fora and partnership frameworks dealing with climate change and defence. The EU and its Member States can leverage existing channels to seek cooperation and synergies with relevant partner organisations, including the UN and NATO, as well as partner countries, while highlighting the EU’s global leadership in this regard.

The Roadmap offers an integrated approach to leverage synergies and maximise the impact among different EU actors, while inviting Member States to take forward certain actions. Implementation of the Roadmap has already begun. The progress will be reviewed on an annual basis, including through the organisation of annual events with relevant stakeholders. An intermediate review of the Climate Change and Defence Roadmap is foreseen by 2025, followed by a general review concerning the overall objectives by 2030 at the latest.

Background: climate change and defence

Climate change is an existential threat to humanity and biodiversity. It acts as a threat multiplier with serious implications for international stability and security across the globe, in particular affecting those in most fragile and vulnerable situations. Climate change is also a wake-up call for the security and defence community to anticipate, prepare and prevent the security challenges of a warming planet and more extreme weather events.

The EU recognises this threat and the urgent need to provide a collective response to tackle the growing negative effects of climate change. In its June 2020 Conclusions on Security and Defence, the Council invited the High Representative to propose, together with the Commission and the European Defence Agency (EDA), and in close dialogue with Member States, a set of concrete short-, medium-, and long-term actions to address the links between defence and climate change as part of the wider climate-security nexus.

The EU has a strong record on climate action. With the European Green Deal, the EU strives to become the first climate-neutral continent. It provides a roadmap with actions to boost the efficient use of resources by moving to a clean, circular economy and stop climate change, revert biodiversity loss and cut pollution. It outlines investments needed and financing tools available, and explains how to ensure a just and inclusive transition.