Using examples of bases that have been impacted by natural events such as floods and hurricanes, the United States Air Force released a climate plan to increase resilience and energy efficiency as well as making a target to reach net zero by 2046, while the Army followed that outline with a similar plan.
The Air Force’s top stated priority of its Climate Action Plan is to modernize its facilities and infrastructure to be “climate-ready and resilient” while maintaining operational readiness. The Army’s Climate Strategy Implementation Plan, released a day after its military counterpart, is to respond to instillation and unit sustainability and resilience.
The Army’s plan is designed to complement its Climate Strategy, which was released in February 2022, and both strategies are part of the Pentagon’s overall sustainability targets. That outline was released in September 2021.
The US military is a carbon-intensive operation, and a Lancaster University study found that if the military was a country it would be the world’s 47th largest greenhouse gas emissions emitter. The Air Force, which is the military’s highest carbon emitter, is the first branch to set a net-zero goal. In addition to reaching net zero by 2046, the Air Force plans to reduce emissions by 50% based on 2008 levels by 2033.
In the introductory letter to the plan, Secretary of the Air Force Frank Kendall specifically brought up the damage Hurricane Michael did to Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida, and flooding from the Missouri River that occurred at Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska. He says climate impacts are reshaping the world’s security landscape and that the military branch must adjust.
“Alongside industry, government, and international allies and partners, the Department of the Air Force will invest in critical capabilities and technologies to modernize the force to be more ready and resilient,” he says.
That investment is starting at $36 billion in 2023, with it expected to increase to $100 billion per year by 2027.
The Air Force plan also calls for improving energy efficiency, adopting energy alternatives, and integrating sustainability objectives throughout its operations. It targets “energy resilience readiness exercises” at 35 installations by 2027. Energy efforts include using 100% carbon-free electricity on a net annual basis by 2030, with half of all its electricity use that year being carbon-free.
Additionally, the Air Force plans to transition to electric vehicles for non-tactical and light-duty use. The branch also set a goal for drop-in compatible sustainable aviation fuel at two Air Force locations by 2026. It targets 10% of all purchased aviation fuel to be sustainable by the same year.
The Army plan significantly targets energy transitions and improvements on its installations. A primary goal is to complete at least 35 microgrid projects by 2027 and increase microgrid coverage to 50% on most of its operations.
The Army wants to achieve 100% carbon-free electricity by 2030 and reduce the carbon intensity of its energy supply by 60% based on 2008 levels by 2027. It targets overall greenhouse gas reductions by 20% based on 2023 levels by 2027.
Other goals the Army has is to install no fewer than 10 building automation system projects by next year and have a 100% non-tactical, light-duty fleet by 2027. The Army’s plans also outline carbon capture sequestration projects, nature-based and agriculture management programs, and disaster readiness.
“This Army Climate Strategy Implementation Plan is an imperative document for the Army as we improve installation sustainability and resilience in the face of climate change and extreme weather threats,” says Rachel Jacobson, assistant secretary of the Army for Installations, Energy and Environment. “It will guide how we make decisions in reducing greenhouse gas emissions across the Army and in addressing risks to our people and lands.”
The Army has been active in starting many of its projects. It is working on a microgrid at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico, and an energy storage system at Fort Detrick in Maryland. Other recent projects include a 1.1-megawatt floating solar facility at North Carolina’s Fort Bragg, and a 4.4 MW solar project at Fort Riley in Kansas.