Lieutenant General (Retd) Richard Nugee is the lead author of the UK Ministry of Defence’s Climate Change and Sustainability Strategic Approach report.
Richard spent over 35 years in the military. He was first commissioned into the Royal Artillery in 1985. During his service he reached the rank of Lieutenant General and was the Chief of the Defence People between 2016 and 2020.
He led the works on UK MoD’s Climate Change and Sustainability Review between 2020 and 2021 and retired from the army in May 2021.
Richard was appointed MBE in June 1998, CBE in January 2012, CVO in September 2016, and CB in January 2020, he was awarded the US Legion of Merit for his services in Afghanistan in 2014. He holds BA degree from Durham University and MA from King’s College London.
Ministry of Defence Climate Change and Sustainability Strategic Approach (March 2021)
Michael Liebreich: Before we start, if you're enjoying these conversations, please make sure that you like or subscribe to Cleaning Up, it really helps other people to find us. Cleaning Up is brought to you by the Liebreich Foundation and the Gilardini Foundation. Hello, I'm Michael Liebreich and this is Cleaning Up. My guest today is Lieutenant General Richard Nugee. He was first commissioned into the Royal Artillery and spent over 35 years in the military ending up as Chief of Defence People. For the final year before his retirement last year, he led the work on the UK Ministry of Defence's Climate Change and Sustainability Review. Please welcome General Nugee to Cleaning Up. So, General, Richard, fabulous to see you tonight.
Richard Nugee: Well, thank you for having me along. It's great to be able to chat.
ML: Where are you calling from? Where are you at the moment?
RN: So I'm done in my home in Wiltshire, near Salisbury Plain. We moved here some time ago to be effectively close to the army so that I could actually live at home and go to work, which proved quite successful some of the time.
ML: Very good. Now, just it is traditional, since we are both in the same country. And it is the evening we are both allowed to and indeed encouraged in the format to have a beer, I'm actually drinking net zero beer. So which is so no alcohol. So I can stay focused. But of course you may not do that. Now perhaps you could talk us through because you retired officially in May. Is that right? From your role? And in the last few years of your career working on climate change in the military?
RN: Yes. So I, I had a sort of full military career I actually signed on when I was 16. Gosh, back in the 1970s. And the army very kindly sent me to university. And so, I've been in really since the early 80s and finished my career as Chief of Defence People. And as I was finishing that I'd done an extension of that already, I thought, what's the one thing that I'm really interested in and that the military, I thought, was not really taking seriously, if I could be honest. And that was climate change and sustainability, that there were projects going on. But there was nothing central in Defence. And I'd been at the top of Defence on the Executive Board for four years. And the words climate change hadn't passed the, the Executive Board once during that period. So, I turned around and said, look, you know, I'll do a study for you a review. I expected it to take a few months. In the end, it took about a year to really look at what is it that should be… Or why should Defence be interested in climate change? Why is it relevant to Defence at all? And so, I did a study for a year. I produced my report for the Secretary of State in December 2020. And the government responded in March 2021. And then I retired very shortly after that.
ML: Okay, and so just to clarify, Chief of Defence People, I mean, that's kind of all of the is that all of the HR, and would that be the equivalent of HR, but you came from an active service career and then into this kind of [eople, HR role, is that right?
RN: I had a sort of I have a sort of dual career. I had an operational career. I went on 10 operational tours, I spent nearly two years in Afghanistan. I, you know, did a tour of Iraq in 2003. And lots of tours in Northern Ireland when I was a youngster. So, I had an operational sort of background, but I also right from the mid 90s got involved in sort of the people side of Defence. First, the Army and then Defence. So if you like the Chief Defence, People getting some weird for a weird sort of title. But effectively, it's global HR director for all the armed forces. And in fact, so that's a regular and reservists but in fact, also the civilians, the civil servants within Defence, so take all about 200,000 people and then on top of that was the veterans I was at that time responsible for all policies to do with veterans as well. So, which was another three and a half million people, so reasonably large sort of portfolio.
ML: Right, and the reason I push, just push into the kind of the detail on that is, and actually you said it there that you did these 10 active tours of duty is because there will be some perhaps listening going, oh, you know, all he's done his, you know, HR and climate. He's exactly the sort of pen pusher and so but you that's not, you know, because there are those who would try to sort of belittle the importance of climate and why's the military looking at it. And, you know, they may play the man, not the ball, but you can't they can't do that with you, can they? Because you actually have come right the way through the pointy end. And then very substantial organizational, you talk about the numbers of people there. So you're not somebody that can be easily ignored.
RN: Well, that's for others to decide, I hope not. But my last operational tour, he was 14 months in Afghanistan in 2013-2014. And I was responsible for the drawdown of NATO. So 70,000 troops coming out of Afghanistan, I had what was called what I call my three foot plan, because that's as much of the table as it took up, to do the plan to get American troops primarily, but all the British troops out of Helmand, the American troops out of the whole of Afghanistan, the Italian and Spanish troops out of western Afghanistan, and in the north, the Germans and the Nordic countries, all of them leaving really according to my plan, and getting all the pieces of kit out and getting the civilian contractors out safely. And, you know, we had the odd scare where, for example, one camp just north of Kandahar, an American camp, they were over eager, and they were ready to go before the helicopters were going to escort them back down to Kandahar. And they were sitting on their vehicles outside the camp, they sort of effectively closed the camp, and a suicide bomber, saw them and rushed back to Kandahar picked up his suicide bomb and went towards them. And he detonated about 30, 40 meters away from them. And they were all sort of sitting on their vehicles. There's a very <inaudible> lesson luckily he put 12 people into hospital but nobody was killed. And but that was a very strong lesson for us about the dangers of physically moving from somewhere because the Taliban took every opportunity at the time to claim that they were pushing us out, which was something that we wanted to deny. It was our choice to leave, but also that they would do as much damage as they could to us as we were leaving. And again, we were trying to stop that. So that was a pretty operational experience.
ML: And gosh, this has gone in a slightly different direction. And I can't help but point out that was before the most recent rather sort of hurried exit at the end of last year, presumably.
RN: Yes, I mean, as I say, it was 2014.
ML: Oh gosh, so this was before the surge and so on.
RN: 2014 was when we when we pulled out big style. out of Afghanistan, we had the whole of NATO probably had no more… So when I was there, 70,000 troops. When I left, there was about 8000 troops and that's what stayed and then and then we surged in just before everybody coming out. Right at the end. So it was a good few years ago. But, the point was that that was purely operational.
ML: Right. And you know, there's a whole separate discussion about whether they should have got you back in for the last… that experience perhaps they would have run the eventual removal full removal slightly differently and with a better outcome. But I think where we go slightly away from what the you know, the topic I wanted to push on at this point was, you know, to having established your bona fide as truly, you know, an operational military leader. Why should the military care about climate change when you said that you felt they hadn't really taken it that seriously, had popped up here and there, but having done your piece of work? Can you summaries why this is a core issue for the military to care about?
RN: Yeah, so I think I think there's two fundamental sides of the coin and then there's a moral argument. I'm one of these people who believes that the moral argument for doing stuff about climate change has just not won the day over the last 20 odd years. There's every moral reason for doing it that you can you can appeal to your grandchildren, you can appeal to your children or whatever, but that just doesn't seem to be winning or wasn't winning in the boardrooms of the country or of the world actually. And you've got businesses which would pay lip service to you've got military throughout the world paying lip service to it. There's almost no military that was really seriously taking this into account. And the sort of the narrative that this is, if you go green, you become less capable, was the prevailing narrative. And I wanted to really look at that. So, I think there are three fundamental reasons why it is really important to the military, and why the military just cannot ignore what is going on. The first side of it is, you know, what are we here for? What's our purpose, and I remember talking to somebody who said, oh, you know, companies will change their purpose now that instead of being an oil or gas company, they'll become an energy company. And that allows them to just sort of embrace green energy or something like that. Our purpose is really clear. It doesn't change it is entirely to protect the citizens of this nation, and to protect the citizens of our wider allies, in terms of NATO in our case, but it's about protection of the citizens. So why would climate change affect that? Well, because actually, climate change is, is leading to a potentially more conflicted world, a world where potentially geopolitical relationships are changing, a world which just straight heat in the Sahel and places like that is going to lead to changes in the way that populations react. There's a potential for migration coming from Africa. I'm sure you saw it, Michael, the IPCC report, and the map that they had in that which showed the areas which were most and least affected by climate change in the north of Europe was one of those areas least affected by climate change. So, anybody in Africa seeing that might be tempted to migrate north, I don't think, necessarily, there will be huge numbers, but actually, it won’t take huge numbers to overwhelm us. And so there's that there's a side to that, but I don't want to dwell on that side of it, actually there is real potential for conflicts, as people become more desperate for food, as people become more desperate for water, particularly, they will become more, or at least violence will become more acceptable as a way of getting their way and what they want. That's damaging to the climate, on one side, but it's just not good. It's not good for us, we will not be able to trade as a nation if the rest of the world is at war. I think we've seen that before. And so actually, there's a purely military reasons for tackling climate change and tackling the causes of conflicts as it might happen, and doing something about it. And the Secretary of State, actually, he went up to COP 26 is the first Secretary of State for Defence to go to COP 26, and actually talk at COP, which was something I was very strongly keen on. And I'm really pleased that we managed to get him there. And he talked about prevention, it should be part of our duty, as a professional force as a well-respected force to help where it's asked for, prevent conflict. So that's, that's just one side of it. The second type is actually the world is changing, and we need to change with it, we need to be able to adapt to a different environment and be able to operate in a different environment. And that brings a difference to how we build our equipment in the future. So as sort of an example, the scientists say that by about 2040, the surface sea temperature in the Gulf will be 38-40 degrees, which is blooming hot. And we rely on seawater to cool our engines. And if that seawater is actually acting as a thermal blanket, those engines aren't going to work. So, we need to adapt to the fact that the climate change is happening anyway. And it is closing down our existing equipment to a greater or lesser extent, some equipment won't be affected some equipment will be. So, we need to think about that. But then there's a third piece, which is that we are quite large emitters. But more importantly, the world is changing to reduce emissions. So, the world is changing away from fossil fuels, the world is changing away from the internal combustion engine. And I was looking at the news this evening. In Bristol, close to where I live, last year 29% of cars sold were EVs, electric vehicles. This is the way the world's going and there was there was some commentators saying 2022 is the year of the electric vehicle. If we've still got internal combustion engines in all our vehicles and we have no intent of moving away from that, then actually we will become a specialist and extremely expensive option. And as actually, there was one company who turned around to me and said, If in 2040, you asked for an internal combustion engine, we'll give you two choices, we'll give you one, which is 2020 technology, because that's the last time we really developed the internal combustion engine, we'll give you 2040 technology, but we'll only be doing it for you so it'll be exquisitely expensive for you. So, there's a sort of financial piece there as well. And then, if you can produce your own fuel, your own electricity, not only do you have resilience against a world where electricity is going to be in short supply as we electrify everything, or everything that we can, so there's a resilience piece... But there's also a cost piece, the cost of electricity is going to go up as it becomes scarcer in the short term. If we build our own electricity supply through deep geothermal through solar panels through wind through whatever it is that is appropriate to us in our main bases, then actually we guarantee the cost of our electricity and therefore can guarantee supply, that's a pure financial argument. And that's one that the MOD and any defence organization ought to take on board as well. So, there's lots of reasons why this is really, really important that we pay attention to it. Not all of it will be relevant to every part of the MOD. But and you know, I think we can get to net zero by 2050. But it's net zero, it's not zero, we will still have aircraft carriers in 2050. And we might be able to carbon capture some of the gases that come out of the funnels, but we're not going to change the engines on them.
ML: Right. So there's, there's three reasons. So you've got the, the prevention, the kind of responding to the environment as the global threats environment, you've got the difference in the sea temperatures, the stuff that actually gets thrown at you the sorts of storms, the wet bulb temperatures in which the infantry work, I can probably extrapolate lots of different things like that. And then you've got these sorts of technological shifts that you don't want to leave stranded. In fact, presumably you want to exploit in terms of new capabilities, and so on. Okay, let's look at those. But can we just take a step back? How big is your footprint? How, are there any sort of metrics that you can share in terms of whether it's the share of the country's emissions or compare it to, I don't know, the NHS or to other, you know, major emitters.
RN: I think, where if you include all of us, scope one and scope two, so our own emissions and scope three, which is defence industries emissions, I think we're probably somewhere between 3% and 4% of the country's emissions, something like that, so we're a reasonable amount of the footprint of the country. But then, but then we hold 2% of the UK landmass, either directly owned or are responsible for and so we have the wherewithal to sequester our own carbon to a very large extent. And that's why I think we can get to net zero.
ML: That's really interesting, because that number is, you know, on the same order, as, for instance, all servers, all the server farms that we've got for, you know, Google and Apple and Facebook and so on, it's the similar order of magnitude to the shipping industry. So, these are things that we hear a lot about in climate discussions, how those industries have to transition, and what you're really saying as well, we're about the same size. So, is there is a meaningful prize in terms of decarbonization that is to be gone after. Could you give us a sense of what is driving most of that is it mainly, you know, aircraft and aircraft carriers, which are going to be very difficult to decarbonize, or is it mainly sort of officers driving company cars around Salisbury Plain?
RN: So, the Air Force represent about 50% of our emissions somewhere around about that and 77% of their emissions are jet fuel. We are unique in the sense that only the Air Force or any air force, but the Royal Air Force in our case, flies fast jets. And they are extraordinarily fuel consumptive. They take a huge amount of fuel. The Navy is about 30% of our emissions, 25%30%, of our emissions, and 50% of that is their ships. But what and why is it only 50%, because actually they run massive industrial ports for their ships. Those of course us a lot of fuel in those ports, they're big industrial bases. And then the Army the Army is ridiculously small, actually, in terms of emission. But what's big about the Army is they have a lot of land. 60% of their emissions actually come from the buildings and from their built estate and to a certain extent, actually, even from their rural estates, because we haven't optimized it for carbon sequestration. So you've got a different mix. You've got in the Air Force's case, it's about fuel in the Navy's case it's about industrial bases. And in the Army's case it's about the built estate and the rural estate. And so, each one of them has to have a slightly different solution to it. But overall, I think we can get it to net zero if we do the right things by each one.
ML: And indeed, when we first met, it was around really the built environment, those built estates, the Army's land holdings and barracks and accommodation. Because that felt like an area where it'd be perhaps easy to make some quite quick progress. But that was some time ago. When you say we can get to net zero, can you give us sort of thumbnail of what that looks like? You know, how will you how can you assemble the pieces such that ultimately it comes to net zero? Because presumably, you're not talking about electrifying either the Air Force or the naval footprint, you're gonna do something else?
RN: Well, funny you say that, but because just that is what I'm talking about is but it needs to be realistic. And above all, we need to be realistic. So my strategy that I pushed for Defence turned around and said, start with our estate, because the estate is at the top, there’s technology there, we know that solar panels can work really well. We can insulate our buildings, we can make sure that actually the estate reduces footprint and we can actually bulldoze or sell off buildings that are very poor in terms of carbon and let somebody else develop them. We can do far more in the sequester, we can really start to make sure our peat bogs are properly looked after for sequestering carbon. There’s a classic example. It's one that I went to go and visit his Sennybridge training area, which is in the Brecon Beacons. For 30 years, we've been draining the impact area. And the effect of that is manifold. I mean, not only is there lots and lots of water now going into rivers near the Brecon Beacons, more than there was when we weren't draining it, which added to all the other water that's coming along, will not help the flooding issues, if there are any. But, if you fire very, very hot shells, or shells, which explode, if it's very dry, it'll catch fire in the summer. And if it catches fire in the summer, then you lose it. But you also create a huge amount of carbon. And then you get, shock horror, forgive me I'm being facetious, but you get civilians walking on the training area, because it's nice and comfortable to walk on. And it's a lovely area, when we have to stop training if civilians go into the impact area. If you didn't drain it, if we stopped draining it, and it's only 30 years, we've been doing this out of the 1000s of years it's been there, then you'd get a wetter area, which civilians wouldn’t walk into, it wouldn't catch fire, it'd be a little bit more difficult to train in. That's not necessarily a bad thing. And you'd be reducing the runoff of water. Now there. And by the way, it will also sequester more carbon. So, there's an example where actually, if we really thought about it from a different perspective, we could use our training area in a much more effective way. So, start with the estate because not only is it a huge estate, it's 400,000 hectares plus, but also it's going to take time for these things to happen, because it's the natural world. But then you talk about equipment. And this is where most of our emissions, as I say, are either the aircraft carriers and ships or the fast jets and so on. So let's look at that. And take I'll take three examples of things which are happening. So, the first example is hybrid Army vehicles. And this is amazing. They put they put a huge, great battery base in these vehicles, they’re heavier vehicles as a result. But what's happening is actually they have better off-road capability. They've had better maneuverability because they have an electric drive on each wheel. And those could have been predicted actually, the off-road wasn't predicted, but it is true. They have better sort of stealth part because obviously there's no noise, there's no emissions in terms of heat, or in terms of gases that can be seen through thermal images and things like that. So all of that's better. though that was entirely predicted, what wasn't predicted was two other things. One is that the drivers actually find them so much easier to drive, they've described it as like driving a golf buggy, and therefore they get into less problems. And secondly, the crew inside are less buffeted by vibration and by noise, and therefore are more alert for longer. So, you get a much better capability from this electric vehicle, then it's its capability is two hours of off-road on batteries, it then has a little diesel engine, which tops up the batteries. So actually, you're topping up diesel. But what you're getting is the batch capability, we've put this into logistic trucks and a field hospital takes a number of these logistic trucks to carry it and it's <inaudible>, and all the rest of it and all its equipment, those logistic trucks, because they're all battery based as well, hybrids, can then run that field hospital for nearly 24 hours without any generators or anything, and run it silently as it's getting into operation. This this sort of thing is already in train, we're already trialing. Take the Air Force, we can go for electric very small aircraft and our training aircraft, the RAF have put in a bid for electric aircraft. And then there's sustainable aviation fuel, which can reduce our emissions by having sustainable aviation fuel. There's two different types. And we can go into that later, if you wish. And then for the Navy, again, this is I think this is a brilliant example of modern thinking. Actually, we have a limited number of mine hunters at the moment, and they're plastic tubs, they're called the Tupperware Navy by people who want to be rude about them. And because obviously, you don't want metal, because that'll set off a mine and so on. But you're putting a ship with a number of personnel somewhere between 20 and 40 personnel into danger looking for mines? Well, why don't you do that through remote control, and do have much smaller remote control ships. This is exactly what we're looking at. And we've trialed them with the French, remote controlled, much smaller, and now susceptible to electric engines. So, what you end up with is a mothership, which you use to generate and to recharge. And because they're smaller, you can have many more of them. So, you could have five out at any one time, and five recharging. And you have a completely different concept, you're still mine hunting, you're we’ve got wider range. And if you lose one, it doesn't matter. There's nobody killed. And, you still have four doing the mind hunting. And so, this is about actually rethinking operational capability at the same time as designing in to all our ships a much more efficient model.
ML: That’s fascinating. And some of those things resonate, you know, just as you were talking about the, the those hybrid vehicles. I was on the board of Transport for London and we pushed through the first electric taxis. And they were ridiculously expensive. And so the narrative was, Why would anybody buy one, the driver are going to hate them. The drivers are never going to buy them as I talk to a driver of an electric taxi now in London, ask them if they'd ever go back to diesel. And the answer without exception in my experience has been no, because they can drive all day and they're fresh at the end of the day. It's just healthier. There's no vibration, there isn't the same air quality problems within the cab and so on. And all of them happier and healthier as a result. But it's easy to come up with examples. I've seen them elsewhere and you've just given a few where there's sort of no trade off where you would do the cleaner technology because it's better as you say, even the example of the Brecon Beacons, not draining is better than draining but there are areas where it's just going to be more expensive and sustainable aircraft fuels might be one of them. There will no doubt be others. within your combat vehicles but I don't know whether heavy tank hybridised but they can they you know, truly go electric… costs, it's going to drive up the complexity and it is bad for operational capability, at least if not across the board, at least in certain parts of the of the capability.
RN: So there's a cost of not doing it, that which we need to be alive to. But you know, if you turned around to me and said make a 70 tonne ton tank run on green energy, I would turn around and say you can't, it's just not practical. A hydrogen fuel cell just isn't practical for that electricity isn’t practical for something that's 70 tonnes. And you know, what fuel, what material could drive a 70 tonne tank over cross country in minus 20 degrees for 350 miles and be refuelled in seven minutes. There is nothing else on the market that will do that at the moment. So, we have two choices with a tank. One choice is to find some sort of synthetic fuel. That is, at the very least not adding carbon but is taking you know is created by carbon that's taken out of the atmosphere or taken away from industry through some sort of carbon capture and usage system. But the other is not to have a 70 tonne tank. And this is this is where I would argue why do you have a 70 tonne tank? Well, the answer that the reason it's 70 tonnes is because there are four people in it, and you do absolutely everything you can to try and protect those people. So, the amour on a tank is just horrendously heavy. If you take the people out of it, you can develop a 20-30 tone tank, which has exactly the same firepower, exactly the same capability. And that makes it more susceptible to a green energy solution. Which does provide the operational parameters that you need. So, it's about thinking things through. But there will be places where that's not practical. And we've just got accept, it's net zero, it's not zero, there are going to be things that we carry on doing that today we are doing that still create the same emissions or with fuel additives, we might reduce the emissions a little bit, but we're still going to be creating emissions. That's a fact of life. We're going to continue that.
ML: And I want to talk a little bit about bases forward bases, perhaps where fuel supply lines have been such a problem in so many conflicts. And I don't know the statistics I'm sure you do about how many casualties are related to fuel convoys in whether it was in Iraq or in Afghanistan and other theatres of conflict. And presumably, that's another one that if we can be more efficient and use more local energy supplies, whether it's solar or whatever, we can improve our well we can reduce the casualties, improve our operational effectiveness.
RN: Absolutely. And here there's also a cost implication. The US Army reckoned that to get a gallon of diesel because they deal with gallons. what four and a half litres of diesel to Kabul, and to Bagram Airfield, just to the northeast of Kabul cost $500 for one gallon cost $500. We reckon an equivalent gallon to get down to Helmand was about £250. So, broadly equivalent, and the numbers were estimates anyway and two different countries doing estimates. £250 pounds for a gallon of diesel. You know this is ridiculously expensive. Our most senior British officer killed in Afghanistan was on a combat logistic patrol and he was protecting oil tankers, which were occasionally destroyed on the road from Kabul to Kandahar. And when I first arrived in Afghanistan in 2013 on my second tour actually, that was one of the big issues as making sure that these convoys got down the road without being destroyed. But he was an infantryman, he was commanding an infantry battalion, not an infantry battle group in Afghanistan. And so not only was he killed and others with him, but it was an infantry task which took the infantry away from what they should have been doing, which was in a sense, which was combating the Taliban at the sort of spearhead. Instead, we had infantry and we had aviation, so helicopters, things like Apache gunships, over our logistics supplies. So, and the Americans reckoned that they lost between 2000 and 3000 soldiers on logistics supplies, logistic resupplies in Iraq and Afghanistan, one in 24 of their casualties was on a logistic resupply. That's very significant. If we can reduce that, then then it reduces risk to life. It reduces the very necessary, in the current circumstances, use of infantry to get those logistic resupply patrols through, because it could then they could then be used elsewhere. So again, you've got a combat multiplier. How do you do it? Well, you can use solar, but actually, if you electrify everything and have some sort of micro grid, rather than relying on diesel generators, or the diesel generators powered batteries, which then can be used… a diesel generator to be optimised for diesel generation, or for generation of power, works at a consistent rate, regardless of how much power you're using, so they work at a consistent rate, which is deeply wasteful. If you build in between the generation of electricity and the use of electricity, some sort of micro grid system with battery power and all the rest of it, you only use the electricity that you need. And therefore the rest is stored in batteries, and so on even that little thing would make a big difference. But actually using solar panels using potentially wind, using other mechanisms, the generators I've seen, would reduce the amount of diesel by 75%. And that means 75%, less logistic resupply. On top of that, you've got Rolls Royce, creating a modular nuclear reactor, mini nuclear reactor within a 40 foot container, which produces I think, five megawatts for five years. If you've got that, actually, all your electricity is provided for a large base in the form of a 40 foot container, which can be airlifted in and airlifted out when it's not needed anymore, then you've got real opportunity to reduce your logistic resupply. So there's great opportunity to do that. It will save life, it'll be a more effective use of combat assets. And it will mean you can resupply other things more effectively add that to 3d printing. And I don't want to get too fanciful. But you know, some spare parts could be 3d printed. Add that to vertical farms, which a friend of mine is particularly keen on. I'm not sure I think the jury's out as far as I'm concerned. But vertical farms are growing your own food as well. You've got real potential to reduce that logistic patrol.
ML: Fascinating, I was thinking about whether I should introduce 3d printing and other technologies sort of not just we're not only talking about energy and transportation, but you've done it for me there. And of course, you know, I'm reminded throughout that, that your comments, the extent to which really, the military, the ability to project force, the ability to defend it, it's really all about energy and food and logistics and some of that getting those basics without which, you know, the army marches on its stomach. And so, but there are others who would be listening to this and saying, you know, this is not good. This is appalling, because actually, we shouldn't be doing any of this stuff. Anyway, this is, you know, what we ought to be doing is, is understanding the reasons for conflict, removing the reasons for conflict, you know, reaching out more, we should be defunding the military and we should be funding all sorts of other things that would eliminate these conflicts, whatever those would be, what do you say to those because I have to kind of, you know, my audience will consist of people who are tremendously supportive of what you're talking about, but there will also be people who are saying this is all just appalling. The idea that the military leads on any of this is almost as bad if not worse than oil and gas companies leading on all of this, what do you say to them?
RN: There's a very, I think there's a very respectable argument that talks about securitization of climate change. And that the militaries getting involved in it, largely, I would suggest comes from countries where the military are feared, people are terrified of them. And they take every opportunity to impose their will. And that actually, military is… for me to describe, I mean, my father, when I joined the military, he said, you're joining the best peacekeeping force in the world. You're there, and he sort of said to me as a sort of parting gift as I sort of <inaudible>, you're there to preserve peace, you're there to stop conflict, if you have to, if you have to fight to do it, then that's your job. But you're there to stop conflict that is, that is, if you like a very Western European and a very Western approach, which is that we're there to really try and prevent conflict. Now a lot of people would turn around and say, we've done the opposite over the last 30 years. And, you know, that's a comment of where we intended to go, as opposed to where perhaps we ended up. But for many countries, their militaries are deeply, deeply feared. And therefore, this is something where I can absolutely understand that getting the military involved, as somebody from a southern hemisphere nation said, if you if you allow the military to get involved in this, you're giving them an extra license to get involved in our lives, which we really don't want. So I would argue that we need to be conscious of that we need to be conscious of the fact that there are some militaries that would just, you know, give them a yard and they'd take a mile. But I would argue also that conflict is a fact of life. And more conflict means climate change… I've said in the past that if the world's in conflict, the chances of getting to 1.5 degrees, or staying at 1.5 degrees goes out the window. Because conflict leads to two things. One is militaries do create a lot of emissions, and they create even more emissions when they're actually at war. And therefore, you want to prevent them from doing that, if at all possible by not going to war, which reduces emissions by absence, if you like. But there's the second side of it, if you are fighting a war, if you are fighting a battle, literally the last thing on your mind, will be how do I preserve the planet, when what I'm trying to do is preserve my life, and the lives of my people around me. And therefore, conflict is doubly destructive towards climate change. So, using every instrument of power that we have to try and reduce conflict and trying to prevent conflict is really valuable. And we don't talk about the military. So much as an individual we talk about, funnily enough, the 3ds defence, yes, but diplomacy and development as well, we have to work in unison with development and diplomacy, in order to try and preserve peace or reduce the amount of conflict. But I'll give one thought to those who, who say that we shouldn't get involved in talk at all. And it's, it's a real life example, which hasn't come to conflict yet, and that's the Great Renaissance Dam in Ethiopia. They have dammed the source of the Nile effectively for hydropower. So, lots of people will turn around and say fantastic, they have gone for green energy to provide the energy for Ethiopia through this massive dam, the Great Renaissance Dam, which is providing electricity. But the net effect on Sudan and Egypt is such that I mean that the Nile when it gets into Egypt, where after the Blue and White Niles, and I've been there, I've been both the Blue and the White Niles in Sudan, where they come together, just north of Khartoum. Traditional Egyptian agriculture relies on a sort of flooding effect, which you get at some stages of the year from the Nile. And then and then a sort of steady trickle for the rest of the year or whatever it is that trickle’s an exaggeration. What the Great Renaissance Dam has done which is brilliant for climate change. But what it's done is it's regulated all the water coming down the Nile now and the net effect of that is that you no longer get this flooding. So traditional Egyptian agriculture is under threat from this great green project, which is the Great Renaissance Dam. What is Egypt going to do about it? What is Sudan going to do about that? Agriculture is falling apart not because they don't necessarily have enough water or… Ethiopia, you know, if there isn't enough water in the in the head headwaters of the dam, what are they going to do, they're going to stop the water coming down altogether. So, they may just lose water altogether coming down the Nile. But more importantly, because it's regulated, they no longer have control. And there is real potential, I would suggest for, if not conflict, although it might end up with that, although I should really, really hope that the world can stop that happening. But there is real potential for tension between Egypt and Sudan and between Egypt and Sudan, and Ethiopia, because of this great green project called The Great Renaissance Dam. So even when we're trying to do the very best we can to try and use the natural resources, it doesn't mean to say that it's all going to be sweetness and light. And that's just one tiny example. There's another great big dam in Pakistan, which has got a similar sort of effect on Pakistan and India, and they're not exactly the best of friends most of the time. You know, there are real potential conflict areas. And then add to that, you know, Bangladesh, already a horrendously flooded country, which has, you know, very, very difficult environment for people to live in. as sea level rises, because of climate change. There'll be fewer and fewer places in Bangladesh for people to live. There's already internally displaced people in Bangladesh, there's already movements of peoples, where do they go? Well, they go to a place where there are already people, we are going to reduce the amount with climate change, we're going to reduce the amount of them livable world as we know it today. Small, small, slow, but then expanding as the soil ceases to be able to sustain human life and things like that. If you've got all that happening, people moving to where people already exist, we know from our history leads to the potential for at the very least unrest if it's not really well controlled, and the potential for conflict. So, conflict is not inevitable. But it is made more likely by climate change. Well, there's only so much diplomacy that people will listen to, if the other person has a gun. Sadly, one of the answers often is to try and meet force with force and however sad that is, and however much you don't want that to be the case. Sometimes that is the only way of trying to preserve peace.
ML: So if I summarize, what you're saying is that it's a false dichotomy to say there's a kind of a militarized world, and there's nirvana. And as long as we've got the military, we will never get to nNirvana, what you're saying is no, the military is that kind of for a reason. And even if it was, you know, the governance of it was perfect everywhere, there would still be conflict in this world. And therefore, there's, there's still a need for the guarantor, which is the military if I if I've understood that.
RN: Yes, the military serves a purpose. And we, and I, I would, I would accept that. It hasn't always been the case in our history. And, you know, we need to be very honest about that. But the military has tried to preserve peace, and conflict equals damage to the climate. And that's key.
ML: So now that you won't find me disagreeing, I'm not sure whether we will persuaded those who really are, you know, on the other side of things, but I want to finish we've only got a few minutes left. And I want to finish with a final topic, which is the military, whether it's the MOD, whether it's Navy, Army, the, you know, any of the forces in the, you know, almost anywhere in the world military has got a certain culture and way of doing things, very often extremely capable. And certainly, I would consider the British military to be very capable. What lessons do you think you could offer to broader society about how to get things done? Or about how to plan or how to think about resilience? Because, you know, it does seem that we're sort of dealing with climate change, we are making progress. But we're doing it in a very slow and haphazard way as a society. So what lessons are there from the military?
RN: I think, you’re taught at Sandhurst so as a very, very young officer, I was taught if you on a battlefield, and forgive the military analogy, but this is what we were taught... If you're on a battlefield and you lose the initiative, so let's take a very well-known example from 40 years ago, the Battle of Goose Green where the parachute regiment were pinned down by the Argentinians, and they weren't moving. All three approaches to the Argentine base at Goose Green, they were pinned down. And they were finding it really, really difficult to make progress and however hard and however brave the soldiers were, and they were incredible, they weren't really making much progress, if you lose the initiative, and I would describe that as losing this initiative, and my one of my commanders had been a young Lieutenant, actually at that battle, and he said, every time we popped our heads up off the ground, we were shot at, and you know, it was impossible to go anywhere. Do something. Almost doesn't matter what you do, do something. And what was unlocking… the unlocking moment on that battle, was the commanding officer realizing that it was all stuck. And he got up and charged, and was killed, and got the VC. But the point was the moment he went down, the message went round the regiment, the commanding officer is down, we all now just charge and they all just charged and they took the position. In other words, they changed the balance of the initiative. So why is that relevant climate change, for me it is, if you just wring your hands and say, oh, it's all so difficult, we don't know what to do, then we will never get anywhere. And I, you know, the sort of the lack of doing something leads to despair, and despair leads to a lack of hope and lack of hope just means you become… you do nothing. So, what we need to do is we need to try all sorts of things, we need to be much more accepting, that actually some things will fail. Some things won't go as we intend. The battlefield, you know, we always say the enemy has a vote, or, you know, you plan. But the moment the plan and no plan survives contact with the enemy is an abrupt phrase that we use a lot in the military, you know, you can plan as much as you like, it doesn't matter. At the end of the day, as soon as you go into a position, as soon as you take a position and start to do something, it won't work out as you want. And that's the message, we've got to start doing things we've got to start. And we must accept that not all of it will work, we must accept that some of it will be a disaster, but doing things by then we'll learn and by learning, we will actually accelerate.
ML: I mean, that really resonates because I do spend a fair amount of my life amongst people who would like to plan the transition. And they worry terribly about how do you get the last 5%? Or the last 10%? Are they say if you do renewable, ah, it all gets very expensive at the end. And then other people who are sort of saying, Well, you know, you won't be able to decarbonize this particular piece of long distance freight by electrifying it, will you and, of course, they're letting the end state difficulties about the end state condition their entire approach and their motivation and their ability to form capital and to recruit people. And, you know, what we end up doing is going to look quite different, perhaps, to what we thought. But as you say, it does resonate that if we don't start, you'll never get to that last 5% or 10%.
RN: And I think this is something I've tried to introduce in terms of climate change with all three services is, is so the Army, Navy, Royal Air Force from a sort of defence perspective, there's a plethora, there's a huge number of little projects going on. Some of them are brilliant, some of them are questionable, frankly, from my perspective, I don't think they'll work, doesn't matter. As far as I'm concerned, let's, let's find, let's try lots of things and then find the ones that work and really double down on them. I think that that approach, if you're not in the game in the first place, if you're not on the on the playing field, you can't score a goal, you know, you've got to get onto the playing field in the first place. And you might be lucky and score the goal, or you might be lucky to somebody else scores the goal.
ML: Well, so I thought when I asked the question of what we could learn from the military's I thought that you were going to say something about being ruthlessly clear sighted and planning and about, you know, taking resilience seriously. So, what are they what do they say, failure to plan is planning to fail. What you actually said was, you've just got to get up out of your trench or out of your position, and you've got to charge, and the pioneers will be greatly honored and may get the equivalent in clean energy terms of a VC. So, I'm not sure that was quite what I expected to hear. But, a powerful message nevertheless.
RN: A lot of people generally say we are really good at planning. We are, I would say we're very good at playing. We've helped the NHS significantly with planning for the vaccinations and for the whole approach to COVID and the virus and I think, you know, our planners are… Funny enough, I was talking to somebody very senior just recently who said, you know, I just love a couple of military planners to help because we do have a very clear-sighted you know this this this, you know, my, if you like the three things that I mentioned right at the beginning as to why is it, you know, I've characterised it into three very simple things. Planning is there. But planning only gets you so far. And there are other people who are quite good at planning, there are a lot of people who are useless at planning. And there's no point in launching without thinking about it and without planning beforehand. But if planning becomes the end state, then you’ve failed. And I suppose that's my point that actually, I take as granted that we will plan well, but actually, that in itself is useless. What you've got to do is then move and do as well as plan.
ML: Right. And it's this combination of plans and flexibility. And I think there's another great quotation, which is, plans are useful, but planning is essential. Yeah. And I think that's probably where we're going with this. Richard, we are sadly out of time, I'd like to thank you for spending this evening with me talking through this stuff. It is fascinating. I think it is important, I think you've persuaded me that the military should be absolutely central to our response to climate change, for the three reasons that you started us off with. And so I'd like to thank you.
RN: Thank you. I mean, I think there's, there's a growing movement around among militaries or those I've spoken to, who can see the logic of this. And I think this is just logic at the end of the day, there is a moral argument there as well, which is that we should be reducing our emissions because of the damage they're doing to the climate. I mean, that but that, that isn't winning the battle, what's winning, winning the argument, I should say, rather than the battle, what's winning the argument is pure, deep logic. This is the right thing to do, because it's better for us. And then we go from there. And thank you, Michael, because I love talking, as you can probably tell.
ML: Very good. It's always a pleasure. And so, I'm going to wrap up there. And thank you again very much for spending time with us. My pleasure. So that Lieutenant General Richard Nugee talking about why the military needs to take climate change very, very seriously. My guest next week is Francesco Starace. He's the CEO of Italy's largest utility, one of the largest utilities in the world, Enel. Please join me at this time next week for a conversation with Francesco Starace. Cleaning Up is brought to you by the Liebreich Foundation and the Gilardini Foundation.