The circular economy is one of the building blocks of the European Green Deal, Europe's agenda for sustainable growth. During the first annual general conference of the Incubation Forum for Circular Economy in European Defence (IF CEED), some 150 defence experts from over 20 European countries discuss how the defence sector can mitigate its environmental footprint by applying and promoting the principles of a more circular economy in European defence. Funded by the European Commission's LIFE programme and the Directorate of Defence of Luxembourg's Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs, IF CEED is a two-year programme managed by the European Defence Agency (EDA).
Since its establishment less than a year ago, the IF CEED has developed into a genuine European expert community on circular economy topics in defence, aiming to address the technological and organizational aspects needed to successfully implement the principles of a more circular economy in the European defence sector. This includes incubating public-private collaborative circular economy projects in European defence and promoting new circular-related knowledge and skills across all defence stakeholders. This should help to improve the designs and production processes of military capabilities and devices so that their components, parts and materials can be reused after use and their environmental impact can be minimized, helping the defence sector to become more sustainable over time.
In the first 10 months of its existence, IF CEED has already built up a network of several hundred experts working in nine different thematic incubators, called "Project Circles”. These Project Circles cover domains such as critical raw materials, additive manufacturing, green procurement, spare parts management and sustainable eco-design. They represent key building blocks for achieving the forum's goal and trigger transnational initiatives and projects through concrete roadmaps, partnerships and consortia. To that end, the various Project Circles will also develop operational benefits with existing EDA activities, for instance in the areas of industry engagement, sustainable energy, access to EU funding and strategic autonomy.
Taking stock of achievements
The IF CEED 1st Annual General Conference is being opened today by EDA Chief Executive Jiří Šedivý, and his remarks are followed by keynote speeches of Rol Reiland, Deputy Director of the Luxembourg Directorate of Defence, Florika Fink-Hooijer, European Commission Director General, DG for Environment, and Kris Peeters, Vice-President at the European Investment Bank (EIB).
In his welcome address, Mr Šedivý stresses the broad positive impact the IF CEED is expected to have, for instance on the defence sector's contribution to the implementation of the EU's Climate Change and Defence Roadmap. Other expected benefits include: strengthening Europe's security of supply by mitigating dependencies on critical raw materials through enhanced circularity; developing the European Commission's Roadmap on Critical Technologies, which also promotes the "smart and circular use of materials”; increasing potential future synergies with EDA innovation activities (especially the Hub for European Defence Innovation, HEDI, recently set up within the Agency); furthering the defence sector's alignment with the EU's Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) criteria, a topic which matters for securing the European defence industry's access to finance. The Incubation Forum could potentially also be called to play a role in EU-NATO cooperation.
"We expect our collaboration to be further enhanced with the inclusion of climate change in the new EU-NATO Joint Declaration, to be agreed soon,” Mr Šedivý said.
The Chief Executive recalls that the IF CEED is only one of several Agency activities to improve the defence sector's ecological footprint, alongside the EDA's Consultation Forum on Sustainable Energy in the Defence and Security Sector (CF SEDSS), the Energy & Environment Capability Technology Group (CapTech) or the recently established Environmental, Social and Governance Network, to name only a few.
Luxembourg's Minister of Defence, François Bausch, underlines Luxembourg's interest to support and participate actively in IF CEED: "Recent assessments have shown us that value chains in the defence sector contribute significantly to its heavy carbon footprint. Besides that, in a world of increased competition for raw materials, we urgently need to improve our systems of reusing and recycling materials. These facts have motivated Luxembourg to support the set-up of the Incubation Forum for Circular Economy in European Defence. We see a great opportunity here to extend expertise gained in the civilian sector to defence. I am happy to see that several of Luxembourg's SMEs and research institutions have become active in IF CEED's Project Circles and we look forward to seeing collaborative projects materialize in order to boost circularity, sustainability and resilience in European defence.”
European Commission Director General for the Environment Florika Fink-Hooijer highlighted the support from the Commission to the greening of the defence sector and the opportunities of the circular economy to the sector.
She said: "The transition towards a circular economy envisaged by the European Green Deal is a truly systemic change and every sector has a role to play. The Incubation Forum is a great opportunity for the defence industry to reap the benefits of this transition. Increased resource efficiency, developing new materials, promoting secondary raw materials and more sustainable public procurement will lead to innovation and new business models. This will not only preserve the environment but also ensure security of supplies, create new jobs, reduce costs for companies and make the most of public spending. Transitioning to a more circular economy is a win-win for the defence sector. We must all work together to make this happen.”
European Investment Bank Vice-President Kris Peeters said: ”The EIB - the EU Climate Bank – supports all economic sectors in their effort to become more sustainable through its expertise in financing green projects. This also includes defence and security. Together with our institutional partners, we are happy to facilitate a green and circular economy approach to activities in this field that are eligible for EIB financing. We aim to contribute to the reduction of waste, emissions and energy consumption in Europe. Innovation will help us create a more sustainable environment also in defence and security. No sector should be excluded from the objectives of the European Green Deal.”
Released by the Directorate of Defence, the European Defence Agency and the European Investment Bank