Science has shown climate change is a very real and immediate threat. However, it is occurring slowly over time, so its effects are not yet fully appreciated.
Everybody has their own role painting a greener future, as do the RAF who make sustainable changes that protect the environment while continuing operational output.
Saturday 5 June was World Environment Day and to mark this below are only a few strategies the RAF has adopted to enhance sustainability and reduce its emissions.
Ministry of Defence released a report on tackling the global threat of climate change. This challenges the RAF to work with Government and Industry partners, to reduce its carbon emissions to Net Zero by 2040 – or balance its footprint with efforts to remove carbon from the atmosphere in other ways.
The RAF has already had success recycling waste material into sustainable products.
Number 47 Squadron based at RAF Brize Norton won the RAF100 Engineering Competition in 2018, for recycling waste aircraft oils and lubricants from servicing the C-130 Hercules fleet. Their innovative idea takes waste aircraft oils and lubricants from C-130 Hercules aircraft and recycles the hydrocarbons broken from bioprocessing microbes. This minimises the environmental effects of running aircraft, while efficiently reusing by-products such as water and organic residue for natural fertilisers and even fish food.
"These innovations should provide a significant improvement in the way the MOD manages waste with the ability to use deployable bio-processors on military or disaster relief operations. This technology also has the potential to save money for the military – and the taxpayer – in waste charges, as well as protecting the environment.”
Wing Commander Nicholas Atkinson
Special Projects Officer
The Number 47 Squadron concept was turned into reality two years later, after the RAF and Defence Innovation Fund awarded the project £1 million. DASA has also awarded contracts to the University of Sheffield, the Northern Engineering Solutions Limited, the University College London, and the Liverpool John Moores University to develop the new technology.
The RAF also carries out important conservation work to preserve the environment.
Curlews are known as ‘Britain’s panda’ due to their near threatened conservation status. The species of bird noticeable for their long slender bills and mottled brown plumage, are the focus of a ground-breaking scheme between the RAF and Natural England. Together, they identify, incubate and carefully transfer eggs from nests on airfields to places of safety. Moving these precious eggs ensures the increasingly rare birds can hatch and flourish in safe habitats, protecting the birds and ensuring the safety of aircraft and pilots.
The RAFs Astra Directive changes the way we think about the environment.
Many innovative schemes have been introduced in the workplace, such as reducing single use plastic in eating facilities, developing conservation areas, and replacing petrol and diesel vehicles with new electric models. Strategies encouraging personnel to turn off electrical equipment when not in use further reduces site energy emissions.
The RAF have introduced the Air Command Environmental Awards to recognise these workplace schemes and inspirational efforts of personnel working on projects to improve the environment and conservation of their local area. One such Station to be winners is RAF Marham, where a nature reserve not only improves the environment but greatly benefit the wellbeing of those using the space; with an outdoor campfire and picnic area for local children and community groups.
RAF Marham has also made history as the UKs’ first military installation to be powered by biogas. The waste products from locally grown crops are recycled by Anaerobic Digestion (AD), works like a giant ‘cow gut’ to break down organic matter through the absence of oxygen and create energy.
The RAF look forward to a more sustainable and greener future beyond World Environment Day 2021. We recognise this is the first steps on a very long journey and we are determined to play an active role.