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Accelerating to Zero Carbon

As the tangible reality of climate change makes an impact, with more frequent flooding, hotter summers and shorter winters, resilience becomes a priority. The UK will achieve a 100% renewable energy supply for the majority of the year.

Climate change is one of the defining issues of our time, and resilience will become a priority. Although there is no agreed global blueprint for adaptation and mitigation, different economies around the world are stepping up to the challenge. The UK is likely to play an active role here, without leading across the board. The UK hosting of the G7 and UN climate conference (COP26) in 2021 will however accelerate the pace of change in the UK over the next decade. Specifically, UK policy on renewables, electric vehicles and carbon capture all help to accelerate the shift towards net zero in many local regions, and as a whole, by 2030, the nation will be achieving 100% renewable energy supply for the majority of the year.

However, challenges remain. For instance, the month of November will be difficult to manage without the use of fossil fuels. Low levels of sunlight and insufficient wind will limit the ability to generate sufficient renewable energy. More innovation in more efficient long-term storage of electricity is therefore seen as pivotal to ensuring that the UK can continue to use renewable energy through low supply periods. Also, while many regions will gain from greater access to renewables, this is not universal. Some energy-intensive sectors, such as the ceramics industry and parts of steel and concrete production, where the business case for adaptation is poor, will struggle to progress to meet targets.

While there is confidence in 100% clean energy by 2040, and several cities are at the fore of adoption, 2030 proves too great a hurdle for everyone.

As acknowledged in the Ministry of Defence Climate Change and Sustainability Strategic Approach developing a response to climate change will mean an adjustment in the balance of existing tasks. This will include a review of the current concepts and doctrine, some of which do not consistently acknowledge climate change as a security driver or incorporate climate change as part of national security threat assessments. Furthermore, climate change is likely to increase the need for collaborative decision-making, resource-sharing and communication across a range of stakeholders, including UK government departments, emergency services, civil society organisations, industry and on occasion, NATO partners. This will also generate discussions on the need for new activities and roles to provide additional support to the civil authorities, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations abroad. This will have implications for future force planning, in particular around the demand for certain skills – especially related to engineering, search and rescue, evacuation, construction, air traffic control and diplomacy. Building a narrative as to how the MOD is addressing climate change could become increasingly important, both for securing buy-in from key decision-makers, and also for framing the skills that transitioning Service men and women can offer.

An Example Implication: Recognition of the growing need for those skilled in building climate resilience across all sectors provides greater opportunities for transitioning personnel, many of whom will have unparalleled experience of the challenge.

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