Crisis Response in a Changing Climate

Implications of Climate Change for UK Defence Logistics in Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR) and Military Aid to the Civil Authorities (MACA) Operations

by Lucia Retter, Anna Knack, Zudik Hernandez, Ruth Harris, Ben Caves, Martin Robson, Neil Adger

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Research Questions

  1. How might climate change affect demand for and delivery of logistics support and how should the MOD prepare for this?
  2. What evidence is there for increased demand for HADR/MACA operations which could stretch logistics support?
  3. Which logistics requirements for past HADR or MACA operations are likely to be relevant for future HADR or MACA operations in climate-degraded environments?
  4. How might increased investment in green technologies enable a reduced logistics burden for future operations and a commensurate reduction in force protection requirements?

Climate change is expected to have a significant impact on defence and security, acting as a threat multiplier and straining resources. The UK government generally, and UK defence specifically, have embarked on a proactive approach to better adapt to the effects of climate change. In 2021, the UK Ministry of Defence is to publish its Climate Change and Sustainability strategy, which is focused on enhancing operational capability in changing climatic conditions and on identifying and embedding sustainable solutions to enable UK defence to meet its net zero carbon emissions target by 2050. This report informed the preparation of the strategy by identifying the implications of climate change for defence logistics in crisis response situations.

The report provides:

  • Analysis of the knowledge base on climate change and its impact for defence logistics.
  • An overview of UK government policy and priorities to tackle climate change.
  • Identification of challenges that are likely to emerge for defence logistics in future, particularly in the context of supporting Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR) and Military Aid to the Civil Authorities (MACA) operations.
  • Identification of opportunities and policy actions that could be taken by the UK Ministry of Defence to mitigate the impact of climate change on defence logistics.

Key Findings

The UK could benefit from shifting from an 'emergency' to 'resilience' paradigm because of the projected rise in the demand for crisis response

Crisis response will likely need to change from a focus on one-off emergencies to planning more proactively for regular, periodic events that demand a different approach: one focused on long-term resilience. Part of such proactive management is capacity and resilience building across the entire crisis response delivery: from the organisations involved to the people and equipment, to the wider societies affected by disasters.

Technologies focused on environmental efficiency and self-sufficiency are a powerful enabler of more environmentally sustainable logistics

Emerging technologies present significant opportunities for setting up a more environmentally sustainable delivery of logistics. Logistics planners must have a sound understanding of the types of solutions available on the market, as well as appreciation of any barriers to implementation and integration of these technologies, for example to improve energy efficiency, water and waste management, reduce carbon footprint.

Climate change will increasingly disrupt global economies and ecological integrity and requires a global response, in which the UK should have a powerful voice

The impact of climate change is likely to be felt all around the globe. The UK government's vision of a 'Global Britain' encompasses an outward-focused Britain that is active in its response to global challenges and ready to take up a confident role in pursuit of opportunities. Arguably, one of the greatest opportunities of our time is the ability to lead global adaptation to climate change.

Recommendations

  • Create a generalisable template for delivery of HADR operations and combine relevant doctrine publications into a single HADR doctrine.
  • Strengthen the role and network of liaison officers in key organisations involved in HADR response across the UK government as well as exchange officers placed in other national governments.
  • Explore and understand the costs and benefits of setting up enabling contracts for HADR/MACA operations.
  • Design a roadmap for enhancing the resilience of defence infrastructure for the future.
  • Set up education and training courses with specific climate change content for junior and senior defence staff and/or incorporate this content into existing curricula.

Table of Contents

  • Chapter One

    Introduction

  • Chapter Two

    Climate change and defence logistics

  • Chapter Three

    Recent relevant UK policy developments on climate change

  • Chapter Four

    Challenges for defence logistics

  • Chapter Five

    Opportunities and policy actions

  • Chapter Six

    Discussion and areas for further research

  • Annex A

    Interviewees

  • Annex B

    Methodology

Research conducted by

The research described in this report was commissioned by the Development, Concepts and Doctrine Centre (DCDC) within the UK Ministry of Defence (MOD) and conducted by RAND Europe in collaboration with the University of Exeter.

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