Recognising the importance of 2021, the MOD published its Strategic Approach to Climate Change and Sustainability earlier this year.  Building on the substantial work already delivered, it recognises that demands are increasing and there is a need to broaden the approach and the benefits that result.

The MOD has published its ambition for 2050 – adapting to fight and win, reducing its emissions and increasing its sustainability, and being recognised as a global leader in response to emerging threats exacerbated by climate change. Beyond its 6 guiding principles, the MOD has also set a route and initial action plan with the period 2021-2025 focussed on delivering a step-change in those projects already planned, establishing the necessary skills base and working with suppliers to identify how to reduce emissions in the supply chain.

But what does this mean for Naval Bases? Recognising that these are amongst the largest energy-consuming sites in the UK Defence estate, they are a natural focus for Defence, and hence our linkage with this Innovation Network. We are keen to learn and to share our ideas, work and progress.

So, what have we delivered? Following on from our sustainability successes, not least hosting the inaugural Net Zero Carbon Naval Base Conference in 2020, and being awarded three of the MODs Sanctuary Sustainability awards for our ongoing projects which are committed to reducing our carbon footprint, it is important to reflect not only on where we have come from, and where we are now, but where we go next with our ambitions.

To this end, we recently took stock of progress and convened a Tri-Base Net Zero Carbon Approach discussion, including both HMNB Devonport (Plymouth) and HMNB Clyde (Faslane) in order to combine our efforts and consider lessons learnt from all 3 sites. The intention is to develop a credible data-driven carbon baseline and map against it the forward plan to reduce emissions. The approach across all 3 Naval Bases is the same, and has been validated against BEIS policy and aligned with wider Defence requirements, in fact in many cases informing Defence’s approach. Focussing our efforts on the investment case, we have aligned our analysis with the MOD’s financial planning processes. This essentially produces a baseline, a plan, the ability to assess future interventions to decarbonise, and the means to introduce the cost of carbon into our change management processes. This long-term approach allows us to think over the next 30 years, to prioritise in the next 5, and most importantly to change the approach we take to managing these issues.

These forward plans are helping to shape better use of planned capital investment and drive better environmental outcomes as well as attempting to challenge and change behaviours on-site, with the desire for these to then ripple through into people’s conscious personal choices. Portsmouth Naval Base has been awarded BEIS grants to bring additional investment in delivering 7 low carbon projects, this includes creating a new Queen Elizabeth Carrier Logistics Centre which will be a Net Zero Carbon Building, and other opportunities to utilise grants are being explored wherever possible. We also continue to work closely with other Defence Agencies on our sustainability agenda, including Defence Science and Technology, Royal Navy Infrastructure and the Defence Infrastructure Organisation as well as industry sectors. This will allow us to share knowledge and best practice as well as drive innovation through diverse perspectives. This Tri-Base approach has been aligned against the UK Government 10 point plan. For us here in Portsmouth Naval Base, our next biggest challenge is Scope 3 emissions and addressing these is going to require a collaborative effort across the supply chain for everything we do (business as usual and standalone projects) in order to deliver our outputs.

Author: Jeremy Bailey is Portsmouth Director of Operations and Naval Base Commander at the Royal Navy.

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