Last Friday it was a great pleasure to join a call with a large number of local Womens’ Institutes on Climate Change. It was a helpful meeting which proved yet again how focussed people are on an issue which we view as the world’s most important international challenge.
From my role in Defence I can assure you that we have no doubt about the risk Climate Change represents. What our Armed Forces are asked to undertake will be directly impacted by everything from new sea lanes as the ice melts, to destabilision caused by drought and water shortage and the consequential tragic expectation of increasing demands for “HADR” – humanitarian and disaster relief.
Over the last year in the MOD I have been working through what more Defence can do to help win the battle on carbon emissions. You may have read this week of the far ranging report we commissioned and our response.
We have already made progress but the more you look the more opportunities we find. Our new Royal Navy patrol vessels are producing 95 per cent less Nitrogen Oxide. We are investigating Hybrid Electric Armoured vehicles: cutting emissions and increasing stealth on the frontline. We are training our jet pilots on simulation systems - using fewer plane miles and less fuel on training. We are piloting net zero barracks and planting 2 million more trees on our Army training estate.
We have exciting collaborations with industry and research focussed directly on what more we can do to reduce carbon. Defence has a vital task which our people are called upon to undertake daily in an ever more uncertain world - but we have no doubt that alongside that we can make very significant contributions to lowering carbon emissions.
The work being undertaken right across Government and much more broadly is a cause for optimism. We have a huge task ahead of us but we must not be overwhelmed.
Last year UK carbon emissions were less than half those we were producing in 1990. Of course this contains a “covid effect” but notwithstanding that it shows how far we have come.
Since 1990, Britain has cut its carbon emissions faster than any other G7 country. The UK is the largest producer of offshore wind energy in the world and coal burning now represents a tiny fraction of our electricity generation – and is on its way to zero. Later this year we host COP26 in Glasgow with America newly – we need to maintain momentum but the world can rise to the challenge.