NATO leaders attend a bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the NATO summit at the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) headquarters in Brussels on June 14, 2021.

NATO leaders attend a bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the NATO summit at the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) headquarters in Brussels on June 14, 2021. BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images

NATO Members Agree to Broad Tech, Environmental Agenda

A new tech accelerator and innovation fund comes with new commitments on cyber resilience and a collective look at emissions.

BRATISLAVA, Slovakia—NATO members have agreed to boost technology funding and further reduce carbon emissions, according to Benedetta Berti, the head of policy planning at the NATO’s Office of the Secretary General. 

Berti, who helped draft the 2030 reform agenda adopted by NATO member states during this week's summit, sat down with Defense One during the GLOBSEC forum in Bratislava, Slovakia. 

She said one of the key agreements is to strengthen collective cybersecurity to better deter attacks from malicious actors, like Russia. The passage builds on a 2016 agreement to seven baseline requirements related to cyber resilience: the ability to quickly recover from and minimize the effects of cyber attack.

“Now we are going one step beyond that,” Berti said. “We are developing an alliance-wide resilience objective and network with allies to have their own nationally-tailored goals. So each ally will have their own implementation plans.”

NATO members will determine the best way to identify and minimize cyber threats, as they always have, but the members agreed to a more active advisory role for NATO. They also agreed to start the process of sharing more information with each other about the status of their resilience efforts. 

“There is a political commitment to develop this whole process, so to create...a system for monitoring, to come together regularly with high-level officials from all countries to monitor progress and then, of course, on the basis of these objectives…each ally will work with us advising to develop their own national approach. It’s an expansion.”

NATO members will launch a defense innovation accelerator to help fund startups develop technology that could help collective defense.  

“Concretely, this will be a center designed to foster greater transatlantic cooperation, to promote interoperability and that will have a series of...offices to staff centers across the alliance,” she said. The accelerator will allow NATO to better “experiment, validate, integrate, [and] adopt new and emerging technologies, together.”

Members have also agreed to launch a defense innovation fund focused on startups that make technology for both defense and civilian organizations. The fund will be opt-in and will look for new, non-traditional players making technologies “that answer problems we have for our common defense and security,” Berti said, describing it as a recognition that the next generation of companies making defense products will largely be software companies. 

Perhaps the biggest agreement to come out of the summit, and a core feature of the 2030 agenda, is a renewed pledge to tackle climate change. “We didn’t have a climate change and security strategy if you wish. Now we do. And the level of ambition is pretty is high,” Berti said. 

Unlike other multilateral and multinational agreements on climate, the agreement looks at the security aspects of climate change. NATO will “do an assessment of our bases, our installations, our missions, our operations. We’re going to see how they are affected by climate change. How are we going to climate proof them, increase our climate resilience,” Berti said. 

As part of that, NATO will “look at what role we can play in combating climate change. Not as a first responder. But this is a whole-of-government, whole-of-society challenge.”

NATO members asked the secretary to come up with a hard target for alliance members, she said.

“Allies have committed to work within their own countries to reduce military emissions,” Berti said. It’s the sort of thing that many individual member states were already doing. But having an agreement among all the NATO members creates extra emphasis, she said.