Energy and Climate Change at NATO

On a recent visit to the NATO headquarters in Brussels, I had the opportunity to discuss their take on energy and climate change (among other more pertinent issues).

Here’s a quick summary of their concerns and activities, as revealed during the discussions. Needless to say, there’s no classified information here.

Even though NATO has an energy security department, it does not have a doctrine or guiding principles regarding energy security. It leaves specific strategies to the discretion of member states. I found this rather curious, as many NATO member states continue to heavily depend on Russia (and other “problem” states) for natural gas and oil.

There are, however, three “pillars” of energy security at NATO.

  • Situational awareness: NATO works towards understanding energy supply disruption risks among member states.
  • Infrastructure security: this one is obvious. I’m going to add “sea lane security” to this, as they have worked to secure shipping channels in the past.
  • Energy efficiency: the main purposes of this are political (to not rub local populations in Afghanistan and other places the wrong way, by polluting their air and water) and economic (cost saving). “We’re not tree huggers”, someone said. No surprises there.

As for climate change, NATO, including the American military leadership in it, considers it to be a security risk, the consequences of which would increase over time.

Even as the American military leadership is concerned of climate change risks, their commander-in-chief Donald Trump does not share these concerns (to put it mildly).

However, someone at NATO joked, “The unwritten rule of diplomacy is to never let our bosses do anything… They may not be aware of the historical and current contexts and positions.”

Make of it what you must.

What is relevant, however, is that the US military is going to screen the film “Age of Consequences” at NATO in a few days. It’s a movie that flags the risks of climate change. Perhaps a screening at the White House is also warranted.