The House of Commons Select Committee on Defence, chaired by Tobias Ellwood MP (Cons), held a session today on ‘defence and climate change’ and heard from Lt. Gen. Nugee (Rtd), Lead of Ministry of Defence’s 2021 Climate Change and Sustainability Review published in 2021.

Lt. Gen. Nugee (Rtd) is currently a member of the MoD’s ‘Defence Safety and Environment Committee as a Non-Executive Director. The committee is the principal forum within the ministry for the governance of environmental protection.

The General spoke to IEMA on our Greening the News podcast about his work to help make the Ministry of Defence into a more environmentally sustainable organisation. You can listen to that podcast here.

Speaking to the Defence Committee in parliament, Gen. Nugee said:

“We’re still 'in the emergency room', I think was the way that the United Nations Secretary General described it at COP.

“Current projections are that if everyone does what they say they’re going to do, we’re going to get to 2.7C [of global heating]."

Referring to the potential for tipping points being reached and ice melting in Antarctica and Greenland, he said: “Perhaps we’re looking at 10m of sea level rise. That would affect our ports.”

The chair of the committee, Tobias Ellwood MP, asked which ports and runways this could include. Gen. Nugee responded to confirm that would cover the UK’s runways in Gibraltar and the Falklands, and ports such as Portsmouth and Devonport (near Plymouth).

General Nugee went on to raise concerns about the impact of extreme weather on people and said:

“I was in Iraq in 2003 and we were in 50-55C of heat during the summer without air conditioning.

“More people went to the regimental aid post for heat [related illnesses] than they did for anything else during my tour. We had to send people back [home] due to heat exhaustion.”

Speaking more generally, he said:

“This is about national security. The hotter the world, the more scarce certain resources will be, and therefore the more competition for those resources. And the more competition for those resources, the more likely that conflict is going to happen.”

He went on to speak about what the UK military is doing to reduce its contribution to the climate emergency, saying “We must reduce our emissions where we can” but made several caveats, including saying that current technology doesn’t allow a roll-out of electric tanks onto the battlefield.

He also said that the Ministry of Defence has an ambition “to be the global leader in understanding the security implications of climate change.”

You can find his full exchange with Tobias Ellwood MP on the parliament website here.

Finally, look out for the next issue of IEMA’s magazine Transform, due to be published this Friday, which includes a longer article on the environmental impact of the world's militaries.


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