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How Climate Change, Greening, and Climate Adaptation Initiatives are Impacting Coast Guard Operations and Functions: North Atlantic Coast Guard Forum, 2023 Summit

October 16 to 19, 2023
Helsinki, Finland
Coordinated by Canada with input from North Atlantic Coast Guard Forum members



Over the past 170 years, human activities have caused significant shifts in the natural operation of the planet. Our activities, primarily through the emission of greenhouse gases (GHG) such as carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide, have caused global warming. This is particularly evident in the Arctic, where average temperatures have increased by close to 4°C since 1850.Footnote 1 Despite international efforts and agreements, GHG emissions continue to rise.

Many countries consider The Paris Agreement to be the most significant legally binding international treaty on climate change. The Paris Agreement commits its signatories to “hold the increase in global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.”Footnote 2 In response to this Agreement and the international consensus by scientists on the severity of this threat, several countries have adopted net-zero emissions targets by (or before) the year 2050 to slow the effects of climate change. Many countries have also been exploring adaptation solutions to combat the challenges already present from climate change.

Climate change impacts all of us, regardless of culture or geography, though some are more severely impacted, such as vulnerable coastal communities. It is a cross-cutting challenge, affecting many aspects of coast guard operations. The aim of this paper is to spark international dialogue on climate change solutions between North Atlantic Coast Guard Forum (NACGF) members as a means of sharing information and best practices to support each other in our efforts. The thoughts shared in this thematic paper represent a point in time, recognizing that the realities of climate change will continue to evolve.

The climate challenge

The changing climate presents multiple challenges for NACGF member nations. Consideration must be given to:

  1. The impacts of climate change on operations and functions;
  2. The secondary effects of greening initiatives; and,
  3. The call to green our own coast guard operations.

Impacts of climate change

Both the direct and indirectFootnote 3 impacts of climate change are affecting operations of coast guards in the north Atlantic. More frequent, severe, and unpredictable weather and catastrophic events present operational challenges to many coast guard programs and services. In Canada, recent examples of these impacts include Hurricane Fiona, which struck eastern Canada in 2022 and became the costliest and most intense tropical storm on Canadian record. Many Canadians were also seriously impacted by the 2023 wildfire season, the worst wildfire season in Canada’s history. Each of these catastrophic events involved a response from the Canadian Coast Guard. Responding to disasters like these often require coast guards to make tough decisions and trade-offs between delivering the critical services they are expected to perform as part of their mandate and responding to the urgent call of humanitarian crises.

Many coast guards are facing an increasing demand for on-water and air incident response, such as maritime search and rescue and environmental response operations, with limited assets and personnel. Extreme weather events also lead to difficulties for enforcement missions, as it becomes harder to conduct inspections onboard vessels or aircraft and ensure compliance with fewer available sea and flight days. Sea level rise and storm surges present greater risks to critical shore-based infrastructure, resulting in the need to implement adaptation strategies to protect existing infrastructure in high-risk areas, relocate assets away from vulnerable shorelines, and guide new infrastructure development away from high-risk areas.Footnote 4 Many coast guards also face challenges with maintaining marine transportation systems during extreme weather events, where aids to navigation can be displaced, such as during Hurricane Ian which severely impacted the United States in 2022.

Melting sea ice and the opening of new Arctic navigation routes has begun to generate more shipping and pleasure craft traffic in the Arctic, creating new demands for coast guard operations. Current and future challenges include the increased risk of incidents in a vast and complex maritime environment, and the need to monitor new routes for smuggling, as well as for illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing activities. Responding to these challenges will require new assets, such as polar icebreakers and aircraft, to transition from a seasonal to a year-round presence in the Arctic. Increasingly unpredictable snow and sea-ice patterns make traveling through semi-permanent routes across sea-ice more dangerous.

There is a widening knowledge gap between the evolving physical Arctic environment and what is mapped. Changes in the Arctic due to permafrost thaw and melting sea ice will have significant impacts on coast guards as more ships enter Arctic waters. Expanded access to the Arctic also creates new opportunities for economic development in areas where a nation’s asserted sovereignty may be contested. Climate challenges have been a driver of global migration, causing migrants to escape economic and physical hardships and relocate to more hospitable and equitable regions. As this movement increases, this will lead to more demand for monitoring, incident response, and enforcement activities from coast guards in NACGF countries.

Changes in ocean biodiversity and fish habitat are resulting in a greater need to protect the seabed and sensitive areas, particularly with the establishment and expansion of Marine Protected Areas.Footnote 5 This can impact shipping routes, causing mariners to potentially operate in unfamiliar environments, thereby modifying the incident response operations. Changes in the distribution of species caused by climate change also impacts where and when fishers can harvest, putting pressure on the fishing industry. Fishers may have shorter and fewer opportunities to pursue their livelihood, leading them to take greater risks to maximize available sea days. This may lead to more search and rescue incidents, as well as conflicts between fishing regulators and fishers who attempt to operate illegally.

Coast guards around the north Atlantic region note the impact of seasonal shifts. Longer seasons of open water due to sea ice melting earlier and freezing later are putting pressure on operational assets and personnel capacity. Although Arctic ice is melting, this can wreak havoc farther south as coast guards have to contend with multi-year ice and changing conditions, resulting in an increased need for icebreaking in southern ports and waterways. Historical data can no longer be relied upon as new climatic conditions emerge. Major assets, such as icebreakers, are operating for longer periods which means shorter periods for vessel maintenance, while seasonal search and rescue stations are being pushed to open sooner and remain operational later into year. These examples demonstrate that the impacts of climate change will pose significant challenges to coast guards around the north Atlantic for decades to come.

Secondary effects of greening and environmental initiatives on coast guard operations

In response to climate change, governments and organizations around the world are implementing more environmentally friendly solutions, including transitioning to cleaner energy sources, increasing the protection of sensitive habitats and species, and using novel technology to streamline processes and reduce emissions. While these solutions are important and necessary, it is undeniable that they will have impacts on the day-to-day operations of coast guards in the north Atlantic.

New fuel types and electric sources of energy are becoming more popular, but they also pose challenges for response operations. For example, responding to releases of hybrid fuels or liquified natural gas will require new techniques and strategies. Nuclear powered vessels in need of assistance, especially in high latitudes, create a complex new dimension for search and rescue response and derelict vessel response. Coast guards could be called to respond to Arctic radiation emergencies, which are complex and challenging, requiring cooperation between emergency response actors in Arctic states, as well as specialized training and resources. Coast guards may also be called to respond to fires onboard ferries that are transporting electric vehicles, which will require a different approach for both response and vessel salvage. Autonomous vessels, while often considered greener than traditional vessels because they reduce inefficiencies and often employ low- or zero-emission fuels, introduce new risks for search and rescue and general on-water response. Where in the past crewed vessels (commercial or otherwise) on the water have provided coast guards with support as vessels of opportunity, the reduced on-water human factor associated with autonomous vessels presents safety risks and pressures on coast guards to be able to respond faster and further offshore.

Renewable energy projects such as offshore windfarms are becoming more common in the north Atlantic region, and they have the potential to generate large amounts of clean and renewable energy, reducing global emissions. However, offshore windfarms also create many challenges for coast guard operations, such as new possibilities for smuggling and illegal drug trafficking, requiring increased monitoring. Sensors installed around windfarms have been known to disrupt military operations. Wind turbine generators, primarily made of steel, may cause interference with vessel radar, an essential instrument for maritime navigation.

Additionally, offshore windfarms can create navigational safety risks, especially if facilities are constructed in or near traditional vessel transit routes. Coast guards may be called on to respond to vessels that have been damaged from striking wind turbines. Conducting search and rescue and environmental response missions in and around offshore windfarms poses new navigation risks for coast guard vessels, requiring additional training for personnel. Furthermore, offshore windfarms, if targeted by cyberattacks, could lose turbine connection with satellites and face disruptions or threats that could lead to shutdowns. Such satellite and other technical interference may affect marine traffic monitoring systems that coast guards depend on to operate and deliver critical services.

When innovative technologies such as those mentioned above are adopted by industry, coast guards are called to respond to new types of hazards, often with outdated regulatory frameworks that have not kept pace with the implementation of greening initiatives. There can also be discrepancies between legislation and greening initiatives which create additional challenges for coast guard operations, such as those associated with the implementation of emissions reduction legislation (for example, the European Union’s Sulphur Directive.Footnote 6)

Responding in this new operating environment will require revised regulations, as well as updated training, tools, partnerships, and exercises. Pressure on training and exercising capabilities will also be strained by increased requirements for biodiversity protection. However, promising technologies such as uncrewed aerial vehicles (UAVs) will allow coast guards to monitor and operate in new efficient waysFootnote 7. Decision-making tools using artificial intelligence present opportunities for route optimization, surveillance and enforcement, predictive vessel maintenance, marine weather forecasting, and more, but also come with challenges as the development of AI outpaces regulatory frameworks.

While cleaner technologies and greening initiatives will create new challenges for coast guard operations, adapting to these new realities will be critical to support a global move towards sustainability.

The call to green coast guard operations

As governments around the world put in place measures to mitigate climate change and reduce GHG emissions, many coast guard organizations will have to do the same. This will require a delicate balance between the adoption of modern technologies, including new propulsion systems onboard vessels, and the need to continue delivering critical on-water services, many of which are currently quite fuel-intensive.

To make progress on the decarbonization of operations, low-carbon fuels (LCFs) are being considered, and in some cases already being tested and used by coast guards in the north Atlantic. To ensure reliability and performance, LCFs need to be tested and validated in various operating scenarios before widespread adoptionFootnote 8. In some instances, LCFs may not work as efficiently as traditional fuels and may require machinery adaptations to address functional differences, while in other cases these fuels have been found to be equivalent in performance. For example, trials have shown that biofuel blends cannot operate as efficiently in colder weather, while other tests have demonstrated that HVO 100 (hydrotreated vegetable oil, a form of renewable diesel) operates similarly to traditional diesel fuel and can operate in sub-zero conditions without the need for vessel machinery modification.Footnote 9 Understanding the differences between LCFs and traditional fuels is an essential part of the more widespread adoption of LCFs.

It is important to note that transporting alternative fuels such as green hydrogen increases specific risks within harbour environments, making it necessary in some cases to ensure sufficient mooring places in outer harbours. Other alternative fuel considerations include fuel availability and the complete life cycle emissions of fuels (including emissions created by fuel production), fuel energy density, changes in operational ability, and potential for failure or safety risk (e.g. if an electric vessel shorts or catches fire).

Despite potential challenges, coast guards are already leaning forward and making use of these lower emission options, when operationally feasible, to take incremental steps towards emissions reductions. Coast guards should continue to share lessons learned about the operability of different fuels in their environments to accelerate adoption of the most efficient LCFs and inform the development of future ship design. Electrification of vessels and hybridization can similarly be tested in each coast guard’s unique operating environment, and while a move to full electrification may not be possible in the short-term, using a hybrid vehicle may be a positive step forward.

Strategic planning and analysis, space-based technologiesFootnote 10, and UAVs are all means of targeting asset usage to make operations more efficient and reduce the emissions of existing assets. Space-based technologies and UAVs can support enhanced capabilities in monitoring for illegal migration, drug trafficking, and fisheries enforcement. They can also detect debris and oil spills from a great distance to focus search and rescue as well as environmental response missions. Onboarding innovative technologies requires the development of new processes, training, and investments to become operational; and, in the case of UAVs, there are associated cybersecurity risks that must be considered.

The three sections above outline the current climate-related challenges that coast guards in the north Atlantic are facing. Next, we will explore pathways towards finding solutions.

Finding solutions: Areas to explore

In response to the climate challenges articulated above, NACGF member countries have already been innovating and exploring solutions. This thematic paper provides an opportunity to share solutions and best practices between our organizations. The following four pillars were identified at the April 2023 NACGF Experts’ Meeting as areas to explore: Resilience Planning; Training, Exercising, and Partnerships; Decarbonization; and Innovation.

Resilience planning

Many coast guards are implementing plans to organize their climate resilience efforts. Climate resilience refers to the ability of an organization to anticipate, prepare for, and respond to hazards that arise from direct and indirect climate change impacts. Planning for climate resilience can involve naming vulnerabilities and knowledge gaps in an organization, identifying and enhancing strengths, and developing a series of actions or activities to allow the organization to bounce back quickly from climate-related stressors.

Developing a timeline or phases for resilience planning is an effective way to ensure planning mechanisms are contextually and temporally relevant. For example, in the Canadian Coast Guard’s Roadmap to Climate Change Resilience, adaptation and mitigation actions are identified in the short, medium, and long-term, over the course of the coming decades until 2050. This approach allows for pacing of resilience efforts while still aligning with relevant domestic and international commitments.

One of the most important components of resilience planning involves conducting vulnerability and/or risk assessments. These assessments can include infrastructure and assets, in addition to assessing vulnerabilities in processes, functions, and operations. For example, through its Climate Framework (2023), the United States Coast Guard has identified comprehensive risk assessments of infrastructure as a “priority action” to protect and strengthen facilities at elevated risk of climate impacts.

After risks and vulnerabilities have been determined, resilience plans should evaluate and move forward on solutions. For example, for vulnerable coastal infrastructure, nature-based protective measures such as artificial reefs and living shorelinesFootnote 11 can be explored for implementation along coastlines to prevent shoreline erosion. For areas impacted by rising sea levels, stabilizing developments such as sand dunes, living shorelines, and re-vegetation projects can be investigated based on geographic region.

The Belgian Agency for Maritime and Coastal Services in Flanders has developed a Coastal Safety Master Plan to protect coastal populations from storm surge and rising sea levels, which includes raising beaches, dikes, and embankments as well as building an artificial dike. The Agency for Maritime and Coastal Services is also considering severe sea level rise through the Coastal Vision project. The intent of this project is to find solutions for complex issues, such as combining the best possible protection from flooding while also further ensuring the accessibility of coastal ports, for example by installing more locks and/or storm surge barriers. Being all-encompassing, the project also investigates new possibilities in the fields of recreation and ecology.

Planning for resilience can also include assigning ownership and responsibility to parties within the organization to ensure resilience actions are implemented. In the United States Coast Guard’s Climate Framework, priority actions are identified and assigned to lead and supporting offices, and these offices are responsible for developing and executing plans to carry out the priority actions.

Beyond what has been illustrated above, resilience planning can come in many different forms, depending on the structure of each coast guard organization and that coast guard’s role within its respective country.

Training, exercising, and partnerships

The second area to explore for solutions to climate change is training, exercising, and partnerships. Tackling climate change cannot be done independently. It will require changes in how personnel operate and interact with each other and with partners, including international allies, various levels of government, volunteer organizations, as well as coastal and Indigenous communities. In light of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (2007), coast guards must also consider how their respective countries are implementing the Declaration. Indigenous Peoples, while often being disproportionately impacted by climate change, can also share invaluable knowledge to understand and restore vulnerable maritime environments. The Canadian Coast Guard is developing recommendations to provide a Continuum of Support for Indigenous Learners (CISL). CISL is meant to assist the Canadian Coast Guard College (in the areas of search and rescue, regulatory marine certification, and marine environmental hazards response) in providing Indigenous and coastal communities the training needed to build their marine response capacity.

Training and retaining a climate-knowledgeable workforce is a vital component of being prepared to respond to climate change, and some coast guards are beginning to integrate this into regular talent management processes. The United States Coast Guard, for example, is training and preparing a “workforce that embraces its critical role in responding to and addressing climate impacts.”Footnote 12

Training on how to work in changing conditions is important to ensure staff can perform their daily tasks, whether that be responding to illegal, unregulated, and unreported fishing activities in changing geographies, or conducting environmental response activities with new fuel types. Some good examples of this come from the Swedish Coast Guard, which has a training course for all employees to provide basic knowledge about environmental problems, climate change, and relevant Swedish legislation. The Swedish Coast Guard also evaluates all exercises using the After Action Review (AAR) methodologyFootnote 13, to improve their methods and education. The Swedish Coast Guard is also implementing an ECO-shipping course on decarbonization, intended to educate learners on how changes in routes or speed can have an impact on carbon emissions. In addition to training and recruiting, building surge staffing capacity between coast guards and their capable domestic partners increases an organization’s capacity to respond during large-scale incidents or busy seasons.

With the expected increase in scale and frequency of major weather events related to climate change, and expanding navigable waters in the Arctic, coast guards should expect an increased requirement for specialized trainings to better respond to incidents. To assist senior leaders in making informed decisions, the Canadian Coast Guard has developed the National Operational Training Plan which anticipates operational training needs across its various regions directly from internal stakeholders. As a result, the organization contributes to a greater training capacity and operational readiness by ensuring the Canadian Coast Guard College plans their course offerings accordingly and setting adequate procurement methods in place with external training institutions.

Some NACGF members, such as the United States and Canada, use a standard hierarchical incident management methodology, the Incident Command System (ICS),Footnote 14 for all-hazards marine pollution response incidents. A generalized methodology ensures consistency and eliminates confusion in incident response and is also beneficial for collaboration during cross-border incidents if two partner countries use the same system. The usefulness of the ICS program was proven in Canada in 2021, when a container ship, the Zim Kingston, broke out in flames after the ship was idling offshore and was caught in a serious storm. When the Incident Command PostFootnote 15 was stood up, the Canadian Coast Guard collaborated with Indigenous partners, local communities, other levels of government, and other federal departments to respond to the incident, ensuring a harmonized response.

Creating new partnerships and strengthening existing ones is another crucial step coast guards can take to support a sustained response to major incidents. For example, to respond to increased hazards from infrastructure at sea such as offshore windfarms, the Belgian Agency for Marine and Coastal Services is leading the development of a partnership agreement with other coast guards to acquire an Emergency Response Towing Vessel to be on permanent standby to respond to vessel collisions. Community partnerships (for example, search and rescue volunteers or auxiliary organizations) can provide local knowledge of geographical areas, and augment incident response capacity.

Many NACGF nations are making efforts to enhance collaboration and cooperation with interagency partners. Nations also have formalized partnerships through international organizations, and through international agreements including the Bonn Agreement, the Copenhagen Agreement, and the Helsinki Commission. These partnerships can support the development of joint training, for example, developing a training program for use by all coast guards to support fisheries inspectors to take maximum benefit from all available information and communications technology applications that have to do with monitoring and surveillance of fisheries activities at sea.

Continuing to train staff to respond to climate change impacts and expanding partnerships both domestically and internationally will be imperative to ensure coast guards in the north Atlantic can respond to the challenges of climate change while operating with limited assets and personnel.


In response to national and international commitments, many countries are taking steps to decarbonize. As coast guard ships tend to be significant emitters of greenhouse gases, organizations are taking steps to reduce emissions in a variety of ways.

New propulsion systems and lower emission fuels are two ways to approach this challenge. For example, the Swedish Coast Guard is hybridizing its largest ships, while also trialling new fuels on certain vessel classes. The Finnish Border Guard is already operating the Turva, a large offshore patrol vessel powered by dual-fuel engines capable of burning both diesel fuel as well a liquified natural gas. The French Maritime Affairs Administration is constructing ships with mixed mechanical-wind propulsion. The Canadian Coast Guard is conducting biodiesel trials (including biodiesel blends of up to 100 percent), and renewable diesel trails on multiple vessels to confirm the viability of these fuels for coast guard operations. The Canadian Coast Guard is also developing an Operational Fleet Decarbonization Plan, which has a goal to drive towards net-zero emissions, subject to the constraints of current technology, supply chains, and operational requirements. Similarly, the Swedish Coast Guard has developed the Swedish Coast Guard Implementation Plan 2021-2025, to reach Sweden’s national goal of having a fossil-fuel free fleet by 2045.

Another way that coast guards can lower their GHG emissions is through improved asset use and mission prioritization. For example, through better route planning, coast guards can choose pathways that generate the least emissions to arrive at their destination. By combining better route planning with designing or refitting vessels to be modular, there are opportunities for ships to conduct more functions on the same vessels, thereby maximizing operations while reducing travel time and emissions.

To successfully decarbonize operations, coast guards will need to work with suppliers, ports, industry, and others to modernize shoreside infrastructure. This includes making green fuels available at strategic points along shipping routes, and ensuring sufficient charging infrastructure is in place for hybrid and electric vessels. This will require collaboration across the entire shipping ecosystem to ensure alignment between vessel requirements and shore side infrastructure (e.g., matching green fuel requirements of the vessel to the right fuel source), and accessibility for both commercial and coast guard vessels to allow all maritime operators to make progress towards decarbonization.

Coast guards are examining the costs associated with fleet greening. For example, the Belgian Agency for Maritime and Coastal Services has drawn up a strategic investment plan to speed up investments for building new vessels and retrofitting existing vessels, including investments in vessel electrification, dual fuel utilization, and use of alternative energy sources such as hydrogen.

Decarbonization is a necessary process that coast guards will need to undertake in the coming years to meet emissions targets. Sharing information about how we can do so most efficiently and effectively will allow NACGF members to build on each other’s successes and enable all of us to progress toward a lower emissions future more quickly.


Resilience planning, training and partnerships, and decarbonization are all essential to tackling the challenge of climate change, but when facing new threats, developing innovative solutions is perhaps the most important task.

Coast guards are innovating in a variety of spaces, including developing new tools that can improve maritime domain awareness, support the monitoring of Marine Protected Areas, and support monitoring for illegal migration and fishing activities. For example, the Canadian Coast Guard is working on several initiatives aimed at building the organization’s intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capacity, while ensuring these initiatives are greener and more environmentally friendly than traditional operational practices. This includes the trial and evaluation of a range of UAVs. Similarly, the French Maritime Affairs Administration is making use of UAVs to detect air pollution and developing automized collision avoidance tools and software to assess the efficiency of shipping management measures. The Swedish Coast Guard has recently completed a feasibility study and initiated projects concerning UAVs, including sending drones to perform environmental monitoring and surveillance as well as search and rescue operations. Belgium is interested in investigating the feasibility of UAVs in search and rescue, inspections of installations at sea, and topographical measurements, and is exploring this implementation nationally and internationally.

To limit some of the challenges associated with traditional drones, small zeppelins are already used by some coast guards for monitoring purposes. Helium-filled zeppelins can move as fast as the vessels that they observe and do not need any energy source to remain airborne, which means that there is virtually no limit on flight-time and battery power is only needed for horizontal propulsion and instrument operating.

Most recently, the Canadian Coast Guard has been supporting the development of a prototype earth observation system for real-time monitoring of marine pollution, ice conditions, and coastal ecosystems, all of which are affected by climate change. These tools can also support the protection of mammals and other aquatic species. The French Maritime Affairs Administration is working on a variety of other innovative projects: deploying buoys to monitor underwater noise; making changes in vessel operations to reduce speed; implementing scrubbers to limit air pollution; making improvements to hulls and propellors; and self-monitoring of pollutant emissions.

The movement towards digitalization of coast guard operations is highly influenced by climate change. The increased need to operate in extreme conditions has accelerated digitalization across the spectrum of coast guard functions. For example, e-navigation (or electronic aids to navigation) is a promising form of technology that can improve efficiencies, reduce GHG emissions, and increase the climate resilience of maritime navigation systems, particularly after extreme events.Footnote 16 One example of the usefulness of electronic aids to navigation was seen on the Atlantic coast of the United States following Hurricane Ian in September 2022. While the hurricane caused discrepancies in over 467 aids to navigation, all major ports were able to reopen in 48 hours or less after the hurricane passed thanks to the activation of electronic aids to navigation. Coast guards can also implement systems like dynamic positioning to limit collisions with obstacles in the water, such as offshore wind farms.

Other coast guards also recognize the importance of innovative digital solutions to support enhanced operability. For example, Belgium supports and implements e-navigation and the Maritime Single Window network, a public-private data collaboration platform that enables an orchestration and optimization of business processes between organizations involved in the arrival, stay, and departure of ships in ports by a single submission of standardized and harmonized data. The Belgian Coast Guard is also working on a roll-out of a 5G network on the North Sea and is currently modernizing the totality of its Incident Management System which will allow for a far-reaching digitization of the operational procedures of its Maritime Rescue and Coordination Centre.

Fisheries controls are also evolving more and more towards a computerized process in which inspections at sea already represent only a small part of the scope of all fishery control activities conducted by Fisheries Monitoring Centres. This is anticipated to further evolve in the future, meaning less reliance on physical controls at sea to enforce regulation.

Shipping solutions which reduce emissions and harmful effects on the environment are becoming more widespread. In recognition of a global desire to reduce shipping emissions through initiatives like the Green Shipping Challenge,Footnote 17 green shipping corridors (dedicated shipping routes which have the infrastructure and policy measures to support zero-emission shipping) are being considered around the world. For example, in Canada, the Canadian Green Shipping Corridors Framework provides guidance for the implementation of green shipping corridors. The Framework also supports actions to create or refit infrastructure to accommodate zero-emissions vessels (for example, electrification).

The Belgian Agency for Maritime and Coastal Services is also supporting initiatives to reduce shipping emissions, as a partner in the Smart Shipping programFootnote 18 for the waterways in Flanders and the North Sea. The agency is currently carrying out several test projects in the field of autonomous shipping and smart ferrying. While smart shipping entails more than autonomous shipping, the Agency is also looking into sub-aspects such as radar technology, optimum use of fuel, dynamic beaconing and supporting tools for search and rescue and pilotage.

As influential actors in the maritime environment, coast guards will need to decide when to be leaders, and when to allow others to lead change. The maritime innovation space is rapidly growing, meaning that coast guards will have to take new risks while also pacing the adoption of innovative technologies to ensure continued service delivery. The full implementation of many of the innovative solutions outlined here will require support by industry and the international community to ensure their effective adoption.


In this paper, the challenges of climate change have been broken down into three sections: impacts of climate change; secondary effects of greening and environmental initiatives; and the call to green coast guard operations. While these pieces of the climate puzzle may be intimidating and will require dedicated effort to tackle, coast guards around the north Atlantic are already making significant strides toward finding solutions. This paper has outlined examples and best practices to countering climate change under four pillars: resilience planning; training, exercising, and partnerships; decarbonization; and innovation. Further areas to explore will continue to arise as this work evolves.

This paper has provided many examples of how coast guards are responding to the challenge of climate change. However, each NACGF member’s implementation of the examples included here are subject to operational feasibility, geography, priorities, and more. As a next step, NACGF members could consider which of the best practices shared in this paper can be put into practice in their own organizations and are encouraged to collaborate with other NACGF members for more information on the implementation of these examples.

Climate change cannot be addressed by a single country. All NACGF working groups are impacted by climate change and will continue to be in the coming decades. As we move forward, NACGF discussions will benefit from applying a climate lens and integrating themes of sustainability, adaptation, and greening into future collaborative work. Coast guards must continue to share their findings on how to best tackle the challenges that are common to us, so that we can move toward a more stable and secure future, together.

Works cited


Canada would like to thank all NACGF members who contributed to the development of this paper during the 2023 Experts meeting in Turku, Finland. Working versions of this paper were submitted to all NACGF members for review several times over the course of 2023. Specific contributions were provided by: Belgium, Canada, Finland, France, Sweden, and the United States.

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