Opening speech

by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at the High-Level Dialogue on Climate and Security, NATO Public Forum

  • 28 Jun. 2022 -
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  • Last updated: 28 Jul. 2022 11:36

(As delivered)

Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, it is really great to see you all, and it is good to be here today, just before we start the NATO Summit.

At this Summit, we will address all the issues that affect our security.
Russia’s war in Ukraine, cyber, terrorism, disruptive technologies and many other threats and challenges.
But we also know that climate change poses a serious risk to us all.
Therefore I am very pleased to be with you today.
At the first High-Level Dialogue on Climate Change and Security, bringing together NATO Allies with partner nations and other stakeholders from around the world.
I thank you all for being here today.

From the High North to the Sahel, Climate change is a crisis multiplier. 
More extreme weather devastates communities, and fuels tensions and conflicts.
Climate change matters for our security,
so it matters for NATO.

That is why NATO is determined to set the gold standard on addressing the security implications of climate change.

Here in Madrid, leaders will endorse a new Strategic Concept, the Madrid Strategic Concept. It will state that climate change is a defining challenge of our time. 

For NATO, this means three things.
Increasing our understanding, adapting our Alliance, and reducing our own emissions.

First, increasing our understanding.
Today, I am releasing our first-ever  assessment of how climate change affects our security, our military assets, installations and activities, as well as our resilience and civilian preparedness.

Climate change deeply affects the environment in which our women and men operate.
From extreme heat in our training mission in Iraq, to melting ice in the Arctic.
And from rising sea levels and storms that threaten our naval bases, to hurricanes that disable our airfields.
The list is long. There are many ways climate change affects our security.

So second, we must adapt.
Providing our armed forces with the equipment they need to operate in extreme heat and extreme cold.  
Training them to assist in disaster relief.  
Reinforcing our coastal facilities against rising water levels.  
And addressing the security implications of  more economic and military activity in High North.

We have identified the initial steps in our adaptation.
We now take account of climate change when planning our operations and missions. 
And when developing new capabilities.
This way, we make sure we remain effective in increasingly harsh environments.

And third, we must reduce the impact of our military activities on the climate.
We cannot compromise our military effectiveness.
NATO is about preserving peace through a credible deterrence and defence.
Nothing is more important.
If we fail to preserve peace, we will also fail to fight climate change.

At the same time, we also have a responsibility to reduce emissions.
To this end, we have developed the first methodology for measuring NATO’s greenhouse gas emissions, civilian and military. It sets out what to count and how to count it, and it will be made available to all Allies to help them reduce their own military emissions.

This is vital, because what gets measured, can get cut.

Based on this new methodology, I can announce today the first emissions targets for NATO as an organization.
By 2030, we will reduce emissions by at least 45%, reducing to net zero by 2050.

We have conducted a thorough analysis of how to do this.
It will not be easy. But it can be done.

A big part of this will be our transition away from fossil fuels.
All Allies are committed to reducing their greenhouse gas emissions as part of the Paris Agreement.
Adapting their militaries will contribute to this.
Including more green-tech such as renewables, climate-friendly synthetic fuels and more energy-efficient solutions.

There is a technological revolution happening right now.
A green energy revolution.
One that can be of huge benefit for our militaries.
Already today, the best new cars are actual electric cars.

And I believe that in the future, the most advanced military vehicles, and the most resilient armed forces, will be those that do not rely on fossil fuels.

By making our equipment more efficient, 
and by taking full advantage of new technologies, we can improve our militaries and strengthen our security, as well as help tackle climate change.
It will also increase our resilience. 

The war in Ukraine shows the danger of being too dependent on commodities from authoritarian regimes.
The way Russia is using energy as a weapon of coercion highlights the need to quickly wean ourselves off Russian oil and gas.

At the same time, we must not swap one dependency for another.
Lots of new, green technologies and the rare earth minerals they require come from China.
So we must diversify our energy sources and our suppliers. 

Another risk is creating a patchwork of incompatible systems.
Where all thirty NATO Allies follow their own separate paths towards energy security and the adoption of new technologies.
This would present serious risks to our interoperability.   

Instead, we should work together ,to ensure that national policies enhance our collective military strength  and NATO is the ideal platform for Allies to coordinate our efforts.
By setting shared benchmarks and standards we can innovate together while maintaining our operational effectiveness.
Therefore I will ask NATO civilian and military authorities to develop a new “Energy Transition By Design” initiative, and present it at the next High Level Dialogue Meeting next year.

These High-Level Meetings will be held annually, establishing NATO at the nexus between climate and security.

Climate change is not a threat that exists far beyond the horizon, or long into the future.
We see its impact on our security right now.

We now have a plan with concrete actions to address the security risks of climate change.
To ensure our Alliance adapts to the challenge, and to protect NATO’s one billion citizens. 

Thank you so much


Moderator Hadley Gamble (CNBC): Secretary General, once again welcome and thank you so much for those remarks. It's fantastic to be here with you all today. My name is Hadley Gamble, I'm the senior correspondent for CNBC News covering politics and energy markets and how often they come together.

Secretary General, in those remarks, essentially you were saying that energy security equals national security. It's a conversation that we've been having again and again, the two of us, for a long time now, even prior to the invasion of Ukraine. And you mentioned that working together between NATO Allies is essential in terms of tackling climate change, in terms of coordinating efforts. I want to float something with you. Over the last several days, we've heard the idea of an oil cap floated amongst G7 members, what that might look like. When you think about that a little bit more broadly, could NATO lead that conversation? Because essentially, you've got to negotiate with the rest of the world here. And a lot of the rest of the world blames the West and blames NATO for inflation, high energy prices and the idea that we could at some point in the near future be talking about a food scarcity problem that could eventually lead to famine. So in terms of that oil cap, how do you think that that's actually going to get done and will NATO lead the way?

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg: So first of all, I think that, you now mentioned many challenges and we have to understand that all of those challenges are related to the war in Ukraine, which is a brutal war of aggression by President Putin against the independent sovereign nation in Europe. And the reason for…, the consequences which impact global energy markets, global food markets, the responsibility for that is President Putin’s. You have to understand that… the easiest way to end all these problems is just to end the war and for President Putin to withdraw its forces and end attacking a sovereign independent nation.

Then, I think we also have to remember that the reason why we have the challenges with, for instance, food prices and the problems of getting grain out of Ukraine is not because of our economic sanctions. There are no sanctions from NATO Allies against exports of grain. So the reason why it's hard to get grain out of Ukraine, food out of Ukraine is the war, is the Russian blockade.

Then I, of course, recognize that our economic sanctions, for instance, on parts of Russian industry, on the financial sectors, also have global ramification, also for the energy markets. And therefore Europeans, NATO Allies, the United States, partners, they pay a price. There's no way to deny that. But that price is much lower than the price we will pay if Putin gets his way by using military force against an independent nation. It is about the price we have to pay for freedom, for upholding the rules-based international order and ensure that the lesson President Putin learns from this war is [not] that he will be rewarded by using this kind of a brutal military force. So I'm not in a way suggesting that there's zero consequences for us, economically as NATO Allies and partners, by the sanctions we are imposing on Russia. But I’m saying that the most severe are direct consequences of the war itself, grain. And second that the fact that we are paying a price is actually a price worth paying to support the brave Ukrainian people in upholding the right for self-defence.

Then, on that specific issue of oil cap. Well, the message from this high-level meeting and also in the assessment I delivered today was to look at the direct link between military activities, climate change and our security. And therefore, NATO will not be the forum to address something which is more directly related to the economic consequences of higher oil prices. So we'll leave it to the…and I think it was good that the G7 and other Allies are engaging in those issues. We will focus on climate change and of course on all the other core tasks of NATO, but the discussions on how to, as I said, deal with a high energy crisis… I think there are other platforms that are more suitable than NATO.

Moderator: Secretary General, just as a follow-on to that, you mentioned in your comments authoritarian regimes. Were you referring to China, Russia, and perhaps OPEC members like Saudi Arabia, and the UAE?

NATO Secretary General: I referred to the fact that I have always believed in free trade. I still believe in free trade. I think that free trade actually fuels prosperity, growth. It's good for our economies. And division of labour has been key for economic development over centuries. At the same time, I think we need to realize that too heavy dependence on some specific commodities can create vulnerabilities for our free and open societies.

And therefore, it's not as if free trade always promotes freedom. Actually, sometimes we have to be careful. And one example is too heavy dependence on gas from Russia. That was not obvious for everyone before Ukraine. But now it’s obvious for everyone that the high dependence by European Allies on imports of gas from Russia has made them vulnerable in a way they should never have been in the situation and now with the brutal invasion of Ukraine.

Second, I also believe that of course we should trade with China. China is the biggest, soon the biggest economy in the world. Trade with China has been important for many other companies for prosperity…and it will be also the future. But we have to be aware of the same risks of too heavy dependence for instance, on rare earth minerals, which are key for many different technologies, including green technologies. We have to be aware of the risk of China controlling critical infrastructure. Not so many years ago, two, three years ago, there was a big discussion on whether we should be concerned about China's control of 5G networks. Now, I think everyone realizes that that is something that matters for our security. So we should not… in a way in the shadow of the idea of free trade, open up, and make our infrastructure vulnerable to Chinese control when we, for instance, speak about 5G networks.

And then lastly, we should also realize the danger of too much naive free trade if that leads to that we are sharing key technologies we are developing with authoritarian powers. So, I'm not against trading with authoritarian countries. That will be the case, has been and will be the case in the future. But we need to be aware of the risks, the vulnerabilities. And therefore the work we now do in NATO to improve resilience, to increase awareness on these issues. And then, in dialogue with Allies in different ways, also ensure that we…well, we continue to be in favour of free trade. But we also have to have some limits and some guidelines on how to not create new vulnerabilities as we have seen, for instance, with our dependence on imports of Russian gas.

Moderator: Secretary General, when you think about this within the context of the current situation with regards to climate change and the energy transition, I just want to read you a couple of comments that we've heard in recent days as quoted to CNBC. The CEO of Exxon discussing the current energy situation and saying that society is going to pay a very high price if governments and industries abandoned fossil fuels too soon. The CEO of BP essentially saying that the world needs to back those who deliver the energy, that the world needs today as well as tomorrow. When you think about that within the context of where we are now, there is deep concern that consumers across the West and elsewhere are gonna basically face a cost of living crisis in the coming months as a direct result of the situation that we're seeing today in Ukraine. What is your message to the oil and gas community at this point? Are you willing as NATO Allies to work with them through this transition? Should we be investing more money now? And not just renewables, but also fossil fuels today?

NATO Secretary General: So first of all, many NATO Allies are of course working very closely with the industry, also the energy industry, and also those parts of the energy industry that are investing in fossil fuels. And what we see is that many of these companies, they're actually now also key in the transition away from fossil fuels. So I think a lot of the technology, the capital, the competence these companies have, will be key for the transition away from fossil fuels.

Moderator: So demonizing them isn't the way forward?

NATO Secretary General: No, no, that's never the answer. Because the issue, the question is not whether we have to move away from fossil fuels. There's no way we can achieve the goals we have set to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases, either by moving away from fossil fuels and/or by developing technologies for carbon capture. And I think we have to do both.

Then, of course, the high prices we see now, they are a big problem for ordinary households throughout the world. And again, poor people are more vulnerable than rich people because they're more able to pay for it and higher energy prices, those who don't have so much… for them, this is really, really a serious problem.

I think the answer is to increase supply. And of course, what we have seen is that the high prices on oil and gas, and also the cut in supply, has to some extent lead to that some countries are moving back to coal. That is bad for climate, but of course it reflects the desperate situation they are in.

Hopefully, and I think that also will happen, and it's happening, and that is that increased prices on oil and gas will also then incentivize investments in more energy efficient solutions. Because you can reduce emissions just by finding more energy efficient solutions even though you continue to use different types of fossil fuels. By investing in new types of energy, everything from biofuels to clean synthetic fuels, to also hydrogen, and other green and clean energy sources.

And then, I am a man that believes in the idea of carbon capture. We have seen several big projects, and I think that with increasing carbon prices, and increasing awareness of the need to reduce carbon emissions, there will be big carbon capture projects that will help us to provide both energy and reduce emissions at the same time.

Moderator: You mentioned the backlash there. It's something that the UN Secretary General has also talked about, the risk of backlash because of the higher living costs. Essentially, power prices can take three to five years to fall back to lower levels, according to the CEO of Germany's largest power producer. There's a lot of speculation at this point about a time in the near future, potentially as we move into the winter months, that you're going to lose the support of the public. What is NATO's strategy to ensure that that doesn't happen?
NATO Secretary General: To convey how important this fight is and to convey how important it is that we support Ukraine. Of course, there is no way to deny that we pay a price, as I said. But you have to remember that by far the highest price is paid by the Ukrainian people and Ukrainian Armed Forces. They are actually fighting every day. We see casualties. We see attacks on cities, on civilian infrastructure, on hospitals, on schools. So I, of course, I recognize that also people in NATO allied countries and partners see the consequences of the war because of higher energy prices. And I share those concerns. And as political leaders throughout the Alliance they are addressing that in different ways. But that's a very different situation than the situation people experience in Ukraine, where they actually are killed, and where we see atrocities, and where people are afraid of their lives. So we have to put things in perspective.

Second, and this is about the kind of moral and political obligation to Ukraine. But second, it is in our interest to support Ukraine. We support Ukraine partly because they are a close partner. We have worked with them for many years, but also because it will be our world, the world of NATO Allies will be more insecure if Putin wins this war.

So it's in our security interest to make sure that Ukraine prevails as a sovereign, independent nation. And therefore, we need to provide support as long as it takes. And…has a much higher price than to pay price now to ensure that Ukraine prevails.

Moderator: Secretary General walk us through how this looks from a hardware perspective. Are we going to see electric F-35s? Where are we today in those types of prototypes?

NATO Secretary General: I'm very careful predicting exactly what kind of electric vehicles or whatever. It may be not electric, it may be hydrogen there may be fuel cells that are different types of energy solutions. I will not be specific exactly on what will be the winning technology.

What we see now, at least when it comes to vehicles, cars, is that electric is really on the offensive. And maybe other technologies for more heavy vehicles, for instance, hydrogen. The experts have different views. I think the most important we can do is to support research, development and price emissions. Because if we support the open new technologies, if we put a price on carbon emission, it will become profitable to develop clean technologies. And then, actually, it will leave to the industry to innovate and to find out exactly what is the best solution to this specific task, either to …big battleships or to… smaller cars or whatever that is. That is not for politicians, but that's for the industry to decide and then offer those solutions to the military.

What I'm absolutely certain about, is that if there's a technological revolution taking place in the civilian sector, which is now the case, with less and less dependence on fossil fuels, and more and more new green technologies for all energy solutions in the civilian sector, from electric cars to carbon capture, to fuel cells, to hydrogen in the civilian sector, it will not be good for the military if we end up as the only fossil fuel sector left in the world some decades from now. That will weaken our military capabilities. So if we want to maintain the technological edge and have the best cars, the best planes, the best technologies, then we need to be green. Not only because we care about climate change, but because we care about having the best technologies in our armed forces.

So in the short term, there may be a contradiction between green and military effectiveness. In the long run, green and military effectiveness is the same.

Moderator: Secretary General, we only have a few minutes left and I have to ask you one of the burning questions ahead of the next couple of days. And that of course is Sweden and Finland and…joining the Alliance. Where are we today with that question?

NATO Secretary General: The decisions by Finland and Sweden to apply for membership they are historic. And that will strengthen the security of Finland and Sweden, of NATO and be important for the whole transatlantic alliance. At the same time, we need to ensure that when new Allies or new countries joined the Alliance, we have to take into account the security interests of all Allies. And Türkiye has expressed some serious concerns on issues like terrorism, and we all know that no NATO Ally has suffered more terrorist attacks than Türkiye. Thousands of people have been killed. And PKK and other groups they are responsible for these terrorist attacks. And PKK is a terrorist organization. That is something which is… not only many NATO Allies proscribe PKK as a terrorist organisation, but the European Union, Finland and Sweden. So of course, to sit down then and discuss with Türkiye how can we step up, do more together and fighting terrorism which is a threat to our security, is an issue that is absolutely legitimate and important as part of the accession process… and dialogue we now have with Finland and Sweden.

I will not promise anything. I can only tell you that I have spoken several times with President Erdoğan, with the Finnish President and with the Swedish Prime Minister. We will meet later on today. President Erdoğan, President Niinistö and Prime Minister Andersson. And I hope that we can make some progress, but let's meet first and then I can update you afterwards.

Moderator: Secretary General, all my friends in the press corps are going to be jealous of that. When you think about this a bit more broadly, Sir, billions of dollars of weapons and aid going to Ukraine, unprecedented economic sanctions on Russia, the Russian ruble currently stable, those sanctions and undoubtedly we'll see more effectiveness as time goes on.

But there is a big portion of the world, part of the world I live in - the Middle East. And looking out to the Sahel, as you mentioned in your speech earlier, to Africa, elsewhere, they are very worried about food security issues, they are very worried about famine, they're worried about higher energy costs, and frankly, civil and social unrest. What is NATO's leverage there in convincing countries like China, like India to pay a cap for Russian oil or to leave Russian energy supplies altogether?

NATO Secretary General: Well, first of all, again, the food prices. I fully understand that people all over the world, including in the Middle East and in Africa, are extremely concerned. But the reason for increased food prices is not NATO, is not sanctions. It is Russia's brutal war against Ukraine. Full stop. And if President Putin was willing to stop the war, or at least allow ships to sail with grain out of Ukraine, it would help to reduce the food prices. I welcome the fact that NATO Allies in different ways, but actually in particular Türkiye and President Erdoğan are engaged in different initiatives to try to find a way to get grain out by… on ships over the Black Sea. But there are also some initiatives to try to at least increase, to some extent, the amount of food we're getting out on land, over NATO and EU territory in Europe. There are some serious logistical challenges with that, but at least it can help perhaps to increase somewhat the amount we're getting out.

Then, on China. One of the messages we have is that we don't regard China as an adversary. And China, of course, is soon the biggest economy in the world. We need to engage with China, for instance on issues like climate change. It matters for the whole energy market.

But we are disappointed by the fact that China has not been able to condemn the Russian invasion of Ukraine, that China is spreading many of the false narratives about NATO, the West. And also that China and Russia are more close now than they've ever been before. We saw that in the joint statement by China and Russia, President Xi and President Putin in the beginning of February where they said that the partnership was limitless, I think was the language, but at least they stated very clearly, both China and Russia that they were against any NATO enlargement. And that's the first time China so explicitly had a strong opinion directed against NATO and NATO enlargement.

Moderator: And doesn't that worry you that there is a situation where you can see NATO versus the rest of the world?

NATO Secretary General: We cannot stop supporting Ukraine because not all countries all over the world support us. Then, we had the vote in the UN where 141 nations condemned the invasion. We have a responsibility to support Ukraine. Partly by providing support, military support, economic support, humanitarian support. NATO Allies have supported Ukraine since 2014. We didn't wake up in February 2022. Actually, I've been in Yavoriv and other places in Ukraine, where I’ve seen Canadian, US, UK and also NATO personnel training, helping equipping the Ukrainian Armed Forces. The Ukrainian Armed Forces are much better equipped, much better trained, much larger, much better commanded in 2022 than in 2014. Not least because of the support, the training, the equipment they have received for many years from the NATO allied countries. It's first and foremost the bravery, the courage of Ukrainians that have enabled to stand up against the brutal Russian invasion. But the support they have achieved from 2014 and onwards has of course, also been key. Now our responsibility is to step up, to do more and be ready to stand for long haul because this this may last.

Then, so if the issue is that we should not do this because it may create the impression that we have some responsibility for some of the problems in the world economy, the answer is absolutely no. We have to continue to support Ukraine, including imposing a price on Russia by imposing sanctions.

And then, we have to engage in dialogue, in public communications, to explain that the core problem is not the way we support Ukraine. The core problem is the unprovoked, unjustified war by President Putin against Ukraine. That's the problem.

Moderator: Secretary General thank you so much for joining us.

NATO Secretary General: Thank you.