The Heads of State and Government of the 30 members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) have adopted NATO 2030, “a transatlantic agenda for the future,” as well as a Climate Change and Security Action Plan. The Action Plan provides a framework to deliver on the Climate Change and Security Agenda endorsed by NATO Foreign Ministers on 23-24 March 2021. The NATO Deputy Secretary-General said the decisions make the fight against climate change an important task for NATO for the first time.
The leaders gathered for a one-day meeting on 14 June 2021, in Brussels, Belgium, resulting in the Brussels Summit Communique. In the Summit outcome, the leaders identify climate change as a “threat multiplier that impacts Allied security” and say it tests resilience and civil preparedness, affects planning and the resilience of military installations and critical infrastructure, and “may create harsher conditions for our operations.
In the Communique, the leaders agree to:
- Aim for NATO to become the leading international organization in understanding and adapting to the impact of climate change on security;
- Significantly reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from military activities and installations, formulate a target for reducing GHG emissions by NATO political and military structures and facilities, and assess the feasibility of reaching net zero emissions by 2050;
- Initiate a regular high-level dialogue on climate and security to exchange views and coordinate further action; and
- Incorporate climate change considerations into NATO’s full spectrum of work, including defense planning, capability development, and civil preparedness and exercises.
Also adopted on 14 June, the action plan explains that climate change makes it harder for militaries to carry out their tasks, due to greater temperature extremes, sea level rise, rapid changes in precipitation patterns, and an increasing frequency and intensity of extreme weather events. The effects of climate change (e.g. desertification and the opening up of new shipping lanes) may influence the behavior of national governments in ways that increase instability and competition. In addition, the disproportionate impacts of climate change on women and girls and poor, vulnerable, or marginalized populations can create conditions to be exploited in ways that threaten or challenge the Alliance, the action plan states.
The action plan includes conducting annual assessments of the impact of climate change on NATO’s strategic environment as well as on missions and operations. It says NATO must account for impacts of climate change on security in order to perform its three core tasks: collective defense; crisis management; and cooperative security.