Our changing environment and the fate of national defense
October-December 2017
By: Nicolas Regaud

It is particularly concerning in the Caribbean, the Indian Ocean and Asia-Pacific, where almost three million French citizens live. Regionally based French naval, ground and air capabilities are frequently mobilized to assist in humanitarian and disaster relief operations in countries in need, in close cooperation with our regional partners, in particular Australia and New Zealand through coordinated assistance to Pacific Island countries. But the French Armed Forces are also supporting civil security forces in Metropolitan France in responding to forest fires, major flooding and other disasters. Thus, as climate change increases the number and intensity of extreme climate events, the French Armed Forces must consider the impact on their missions and the mobilization of assets.

Second, as climate change has consequences on ocean temperatures and acidification, it may have an impact on fish resources and kindle the greed of countries that suffer from depleted natural resources. In some countries, including France, naval forces play a critical role in monitoring their 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zone, and carry out missions to police fishing activities, which means that climate change could increase the need for robust maritime surveillance capabilities.

Third, extreme climate events and rising sea levels could pose a threat to the military infrastructure necessary for defense operations and to critical civilian infrastructure usable by militaries. Thus, there is a need to anticipate possible impacts of climate change in the long run on critical infrastructure being built or maintained.

Until recently, the French Ministry of Defense has only approached the climate issue from the angle of its contribution to sustainable development policies. Military implications and international security were not considered.  Consequently, the French Ministry of Defense has become especially committed to contributing as best it can to preserving nature and reducing its ecological footprint.

As such, in 2012 a defense sustainable development strategy was drawn up. It was updated in 2016. The aim of this strategy is primarily to reconcile the preservation of biodiversity with operational activities, and to determine measures that can be taken for energy conservation and the development of renewable energy and recyclable equipment, both domestically and in overseas operations.

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