MP calls for Dutch military to be more sustainable

Dutch amphibious soldiers of NLMARSOF surfacing in hostile territory
Dutch amphibious soldiers of NLMARSOF surfacing in hostile territory. Photo: Rijksoverheid.nl / Wikimedia Commons

D66 parliamentarian Salima Belhaj thinks that the Dutch military must be made more sustainable, for example by using hybrid trucks instead of diesel or letting soldiers on mission grow part of their food there. She is submitting a set of proposals on how to achieve this to Minister Ank Bijleveld of Defense on Tuesday, she said in an interview with newspaper Trouw. 

According to Belhaj, an environmentally friendly army can work more effectively and more safely. She thinks that now is the time for Defense to change course. "There will be a lot of money available in the coming years that the Defense organization wants to buy new items with. I want to prevent that we purchase equipment that looks very progressive from the prospective of the last century, but in ten years' time will prevent Defense from working safely."

"Many fossil fuels are now needed for military missions. Think of all the generators needed for an air conditioned camp and the fuel for vehicles. That does not only cost a lot of money, but the supply to the camps also entails risks for the mission." the MP said to Trouw. She points to the war in Afghanistan, in which NATO ran its supply trucks through Pakistan until the country closed its borders after a fallout with the United States. The supplies were then transported through Russia and Uzbekistan. "Now that the relationship with Russia is so tense, it would be difficult to organize something like that again."

Making the military more environmentally friendly can also hep the Netherlands achieve its goals in the Paris Climate Agreement, Belhaj said. And there are several ways to achieve this. Belhaj points to the purchase of two thousand new diesel trucks last year. "Why not opt for a number of hybrid trucks? In a mission area like Mali you can generate electricity at the camp via solar panels, so that you have to import less fuel."

Changes can also be made to the food supply to missions. The Ministry of Defense currently has meals prepared in the Netherlands, flies it to Mali and then reheats it there. She believes research can be done to find out under which circumstances it would be more efficient to grow crops locally. "This saves an expensive and polluting supply line, and the local soldiers can have fresh food."

Locally, training grounds and barracks can be made more sustainable. "There is a lot of space for solar panels to generate energy for the base itself, but also surrounding villages", she said, according to the newspaper.

Belhaj realizes that sustainability is not exactly a top priority in the armed forces. "I understand that some people wonder whether the armed forces also have to do this. At the same time, I know that there are many people with a technical background at Defense who would like to work on this. It is not at the expense of combat power. If Defense spends less money on fossil fuels, it can invest it elsewhere."

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