Nato's Stoltenberg warns Cop28 is vital work to stop conflict

Secretary General of military alliance says climate change is a multiplier of war and disaster

President Sheikh Mohamed, Nato Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres at Cop28. Photo: Eissa Al Hammadi / Presidential Court
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Jens Stoltenberg, the Nato Secretary General, said Cop28 can help to break the link between climate change and the global security crisis, as he warned military operations are absorbing resources needed to save the planet.

The military alliance attends the UN-led summit to engage negotiators in talks to limit the rise in global temperatures to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, as laid down by the Paris Agreement in 2015.

Mr Stoltenberg said the two days of the meeting in Dubai had already produced outcomes that would "reconcile the need for economic growth with the environment".

While the war in Ukraine has dominated his last years at the Nato helm, the former Norwegian prime minister reflected on how important global warming has been in shaping the security landscape on his watch.

"Global warming is a crisis multiplier," he told The National. "It increases competition for scarce resources.

"It drives migratory flows and it also actually undermines our capability to combat climate change because resources that we should have used to combat climate change are spent on our protecting our security with our military forces."

At the Cop28 summit, Mr Stoltenberg said the $30bn announced for a fund to invest in green technologies and a first-day announcement on a disasters fund to compensate developing countries for loss and damage were concrete weapons in the fight against climate change.

Nato's core European heartland has its own extreme weather challenge and receives "millions of people" fleeing extreme heat, particularly from countries such as Syria and Libya that have simultaneously descended into war.

"Climate change can trigger crises which are already looming," he said. "We have millions of people who are moving because of the impossibility to do agriculture in extreme heat.

"I'm afraid that soon goes to seeing more and more people being forced to move because of increased sea levels."

Mr Stoltenberg also talked about the distrust between opposing geopolitical blocs undermining global co-operation in an area where efforts had previously been closely aligned.

"Conflicts make it harder to combat climate change, partly because it undermines the needed trust between nations to build the climate change architecture.

"This is the architecture that we need to combat climate change."

Nato has its own challenge in reducing its carbon footprint, which is the product of decades of diesel-heavy combat vehicles that provide battlefield durability but have not reflected the progress in civilian electric vehicles.

Mr Stoltenberg referred to projections that the number of electric vehicles was reaching one in five new cars sold and was projected by the International Energy Agency to reach every second vehicle.

"If you look at if you look at military vehicles, planes and ships, they're not very environmentally friendly," he said.

"One of the things we are working hard at, within Nato, is to adapt our military forces for a greener economy.

"This is partly because we need to play our part in reducing emissions, but also because in the long run, the green technology will be more effective."

As soon the most effective engines are electric, the most powerful planes and ships will be green, Mr Stoltenberg said.

"We need to ensure that we are ahead of that curve, to reduce emissions but also to have the best technologies," he said.

"If you're forced to choose between a combat-effective battle tank or a green [energy] tank then of course you choose the combat effective one.

"But in the future that will not be an issue. The most combat-effective technology will be the green solution."

Updated: December 03, 2023, 10:07 PM