Navy could make climate change courses compulsory

In December 2023, HMS Protector was deployed with scientists from Portsmouth University on board to conduct a penguin count on the South Sandwich Islands
In December 2023, HMS Protector was deployed with scientists from Portsmouth University on board to conduct a penguin count on the South Sandwich Islands - Belinda Alker/Royal Navy
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

The Royal Navy is considering introducing compulsory climate change courses for all sailors, The Telegraph can reveal.

A leaked briefing paper suggests that all Navy personnel could be forced to attend online training sessions about the impact of climate change on defence.

“While this course is not yet mandated, it does provide a comprehensive overview on the science behind climate change and most importantly its relevance to defence,” the paper reads.

The document, published last autumn, reveals that the Navy’s climate change and sustainability unit is “exploring opportunities” to pay for sailors to study postgraduate courses on global warming.

Environmental scientists could also be given berths on board Britain’s warships to conduct research, the paper says.

“We are developing relationships with universities to offer enduring opportunities to use Royal Navy platforms for their research, such as this December’s deployment in HMS Protector with scientists from Portsmouth University onboard,” it reads.

Admiral Lord West, the former First Sea Lord, told The Telegraph that he supported the proposals “as long as one does not go stupid”.

“Climate change is not more important than fighting the King’s enemies, so it has to be done with a balance,” he said.

‘Get a grip’

Andrew Montford, director of the Net Zero Watch think tank, said Grant Shapps, the Defence Secretary, “needs to get a grip” on the proposals.

“Net zero zealots will sacrifice anything and everything to their irrational faith,” he said.

“Economic security and energy security have already been tossed aside, so it’s no surprise to see national security taking a back seat as well.”

The currently optional “climate change and security awareness” course is hosted on the Navy’s online learning platform.

The Armed Forces will have to hit net zero by 2050 as part of the Government’s broader commitment to the target.

HMS Protector is the Royal Navy’s Ice Patrol Ship. Its crew includes a team of divers who ensure that environmental guidelines are being upheld
The Navy said it was ‘developing relationships with universities’ to use Royal Navy platforms for their research, such as HMS Protector’s mission to the Arctic Circle - Belinda Alker/Royal Navy

The Navy has previously said it will paint ships with “environmentally friendly” paint, roll out solar power and use more electric vehicles to cut its emissions.

‘In December 2022, Admiral Sir Tony Radakin, then chief of the defence staff, said melting ice caps will enable China’s military forces to “reach into the Atlantic” in the coming decades.

The month previously, Lt Gen Richard Nugee, then climate tsar at the Ministry of Defence, added that some warships could be left unable to operate if warming sea temperatures get too high.

The briefing paper is sent by Navy Command to all divisional officers and troop commanders twice a year and covers a range of topics.

In the latest autumn 2023 edition, the Navy said that Britain’s armed forces are responsible for 50 per cent of the government’s carbon emissions.

Climate threat to peace

The paper adds that climate change “threatens peace”, could worsen “gender inequality” and global poverty, and that “globally rising sea levels” could damage “ports and maritime infrastructure”.

Elsewhere, the paper references a number of green initiatives already rolled out by naval chiefs.

The “defence green network” is made up of sailors who “enjoy regular informal webinars” on the environment.

The Navy also hands out annual defence sanctuary awards for “outstanding sustainability and conservation achievements across defence”.

The section of the paper on the environment was drawn up by Sally Webster, a climate change and sustainability officer at the Navy’s headquarters on Whale Island, Hants.

A Navy spokesman said: “The Royal Navy has a long history of conservation and sustainability and as mariners, we appreciate the vital importance of the sea to our nation and as a source of life for the planet.

“That’s why the Integrated Review and the Defence Command Paper outlines how climate change presents challenges for our security. This activity is part of how we understand and address the issues we face.”

Craig Mackinlay MP, chairman of the Net Zero Scrutiny Group in Parliament, said: “Sadly nothing surprises me anymore.

“The green blob keeps expanding and our public institutions appear to enjoy nothing better than getting distracted by fashionable causes.

“The Royal Navy once inspired awe and admiration but that legacy is being squandered.”

Broaden your horizons with award-winning British journalism. Try The Telegraph free for 3 months with unlimited access to our award-winning website, exclusive app, money-saving offers and more.