Cleaner and Meaner: The Military Energy Transition by Design

Friday, February 17, 2023 | 20:00–21:30 cet

Promenadesalon at Hotel Bayerischer Hof
Promenadepl. 2-6, 80333 München, Germany


The Russian invasion of Ukraine and subsequent global energy crisis, coupled with the last few years of unprecedented extreme heat, droughts, and floods, have revealed a new, more complex security reality for NATO countries. Navigating this reality requires militaries to adopt a systemic and strategic approach that recognizes the opportunities and challenges that exist within the nexus between climate change, security, and the global clean energy transition. The deterioration in Euro-Atlantic security will lead to increases in the number of Alliance military platforms as well as training, exercising and patrolling. There are opportunities to ensure that such investment decisions maintain and enhance operational effectiveness and collective defense requirements, by exploiting the innovative solutions offered by the green energy transition that are designed for future operating environments, while contributing to individual countries’ UNFCCC Paris Agreement commitments. However, it is also important to avoid switching from one strategic dependency to another (e.g. from Russian oil to critical minerals from China), and to think holistically about interoperability and other factors of relevance to the Alliance.   

Event Goal

Identify key opportunities to speed NATO militaries’ transition to clean energy, as well as challenges/obstacles that require cooperation and strategic planning across the Alliance. Identify next steps for NATO countries including through technological innovation and partnerships with the private sector. 

Format: Moderated Roundtable



Welcome: Ms. Erin Sikorsky, Director, International Military Council on Climate and Security and Center for Climate and Security


Table Introductions: Participants introduce themselves around the table. 


Scene Setter Remarks 
20:20–20:30: Gen. Tom Middendorp (Ret), Chair, International Military Council on Climate and Security 
20:30–20:40: The Honorable David van Weel, NATO Assistant Secretary for Emerging Security Challenges


Facilitated Discussion
The moderator will turn to key participants with prepared questions to get the conversation started. Participants will also be able to offer comments directly once the conversation starts to flow.


Conclusion and Wrap Up: Gen. Middendorp and ASG van Weel 

Additional Resources

Decarbonized Defense: The Need for Clean Military Power in the Age of Climate Change [pdf] (IMCCS, June 2022)

NATO Environment, Climate Change, and Security (NATO, July 2022)

Resilient and Robust: Climate Proofing the Military for Increased Military Effectiveness (HCSS, February 2023)

Navigating a Global Crisis: Climate Change and NATO (NATO Association of Canada, February 2023)

Speaker Biographies

General Tom Middendorp, Chief of Defence of the Netherlands (Ret) is the Chair of the International Military Council on Climate and Security (IMCCS). Previously, he served as the Netherlands Chief of Defense for five and a half years and after 38 years of serving his country. As the Chief of Defense he was the most senior military advisor to the Minister of Defense, responsible for the readiness, the international cooperation and the modernization of the Dutch Armed Forces, as well as the planning and execution of its military deployments. He commanded troops at all levels, led a large multinational taskforce in the south of Afghanistan and was involved in over twenty different military missions as the Director of Operations. General Middendorp has extensive operational and strategic experience of building unity of effort with different nations, governments, companies and many other stakeholders in order to deal with a wide range of security risks. He organized two large Future Forces Conferences where he introduced an ecosystems approach to security and offered “Defense” as a testbed for innovation, resulting in many promising new initiatives. His current occupation as an independent senior expert on defense and security allows him to continue his work on the impact of climate change on the security environment and on the role the military can play in addressing climate change.

David van Weel is NATO’s Assistant Secretary General for Emerging Security Challenges. He is the Secretary General’s primary advisor on emerging security challenges and their implications for the security of the Alliance and a member of the Secretary General’s senior management team. The Emerging Security Challenges Division, which he directs and manages, aims to provide a coordinated approach by the Alliance to all new and emerging challenges. These include cyber and hybrid threats, terrorism, as well as emerging and disruptive technologies (such as AI and quantum computing), energy security challenges, including those posed by environmental changes, and data policy. Prior to joining NATO, David van Weel was the Foreign Policy and Defense Advisor for the Prime Minister of The Netherlands (2016-2020). This position followed a long career in The Netherlands Ministry of Defence, where he ended as Director for International Affairs and Operations/ Policy Director (2014-2016) after serving as the Chief of Cabinet for the Minister of Defence and the Permanent Secretary (2012-2014) and as the senior policy officer for amongst others operations in Afghanistan and Libya, NATO, nuclear policy and disarmament, special operations and the preparation of the Defence Budget.

David started his career in the Royal Netherlands Navy, where, upon completion of the Naval Academy (1994-1999), he served on different frigates, served in the British Royal Navy as an exchange officer, worked as a Staff Officer for Middle and Eastern European countries in the Defence Staff and ended as a Primary Warfare officer and Navigation Officer.

Erin Sikorsky is Director of the Center for Climate and Security (CCS), and the International Military Council on Climate and Security (IMCCS). Previously, Erin served in the US intelligence community for over a decade, most recently as the Deputy Director of the Strategic Futures Group on the US National Intelligence Council (NIC). While on the NIC, she co-authored the quadrennial Global Trends report and led the US intelligence community’s environmental and climate security analysis. She is an expert in strategic foresight and the geopolitical and conflict risks associated with climate change, and was the founding chair of the Congressionally-mandated Climate Security Advisory Council. Ms. Sikorsky is an adjunct professor at George Mason University, a member of the Climate Migration Council, and serves on the advisory board of the Smith College Center for Environment, Ecological Design and Sustainability. She is a frequent TV and radio commentator, and has published articles in a range of outlets, including Survival, Foreign Policy, Environmental Affairs, Lawfare, War on the Rocks, The Hill, and The Cipher Brief. Ms. Sikorsky earned a Master of International Affairs at Columbia University, and a B.A. in government from Smith College.