G20 Open Letter Media Release

MEDIA RELEASE                23 June 2021

Embargoed until 00.01 – 23 June 2021

G20 Foreign Affairs and Development Meeting: The clock is ticking on the global military fulfilling its responsibility in reaching net-zero

Academics, NGOs, activists and creatives support a call for G20 militaries to come clean on their carbon emissions ahead of COP 26 in Glasgow.

Tipping Point North South’s Transform Defence project publishes an Open Letter to Italy’s Prime Minister Mario Draghi, Presidency of G20 and Co-Chair COP 26 with UK; and Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Mr. Luigi di Maio, host of G20 joint session Foreign Affairs and Development Minsters June 29, Matera Italy.

The 33 signatories comprise an international list from science, academia, international development, environment, peace and the arts.

The Open Letter calls for G20 commitment to come clean on its collective military emissions ahead of COP and to take account of the letter’s recommendations (see Notes) as an urgent roadmap for action on this all too hidden aspect of the climate-emergency.

Military carbon emissions

The world must cut global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by at least 50% by 2030 if we are to limit the global temperature rise to 1.5˚C – we have less than nine years.[1]  Yet while all aspects of human activity are required to urgently decarbonise, one sector remains out of view: the global military.

The global military has been a significant contributor to climate change over decades. Its emissions are estimated to be several percent of total global carbon emissions and are comparable with the carbon emissions of civilian aviation.[2] Modern militaries are completely dependent on fossil fuels and are among the biggest institutional consumers of oil in the world, with no sign of realistic or practical net-zero plans to offset their carbon emissions.

The public are in the dark

The G20 countries (Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Germany, France, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, the Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Turkey, UK, USA and the European Union) comprise 87% of annual global military spending.[3] Currently, the global military is exempt from compulsory reporting of GHG emissions to the UN/IPCC. Some countries, including the USA, the UK and Germany, voluntarily report, but this is a bare-minimum disclosure as the IPCC template and codes have only a handful of items mentioning domestic military-related activities.

This means the public and policy makers are unable to obtain an accurate picture of the global military’s overall contribution to climate heating ― from its massive fossil fuel consumption both domestically and overseas to its military exercises and expeditions; from the impacts of conflict and war to GHG emissions arising from post-conflict reconstruction or nation re-building.[4]

Critical relationship to the SDGs

Calculating and addressing the carbon burden of conflict and war means acknowledging the impact of military activity on conflict-driven poverty and displacement. It also means addressing the untold billions of dollars in military spending that is spent unnecessarily — as a consequence of waste, fraud and abuse — on many nations’ military spending and which should now be part of all discussions concerning funding sources to plug the significant SDGs funding gap.

Integral to all social and environmental justice issues

The climate change related concerns of civil society must not be side-lined. In a climate-changed world that urgently needs to get to net-zero, this is yet one more challenging social and environmental justice issue for the G20 of 2021 which can no longer be swept under the carpet.

Full text of the Open Letter and supporting signatories here (also available for download from Greenpeace Italia).


Deborah Burton

E: deborah@tippingpointnorthsouth.org

T: 020 8847 0377


  1. Open Letter Recommendations in brief (expanded in Open Letter)
    • An IPCC Task Force for decarbonisation of militaries and military technology industries
    • An IPCC Special Report on the role of the global militaries and military technology industries in contributing to climate change
    • Compulsory submissions to the IPCC/UNFCCC of full GHG military emissions reporting by all nations
    • Nationally determined contributions (NDCs): all countries must include their militaries and military technology industries in their GHG emission reduction plans and targets
  1. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is the United Nations body for assessing the science related to climate change. The main objective of the Task Force on National Greenhouse Gas Inventories is to develop and refine a methodology for the calculation and reporting of national greenhouse gas emissions and removals.
  2. There have been a number of recent reports quantifying the carbon contribution of the global military to climate change.4
  3. Tipping Point North South’s (TPNS) Transform Defence for Sustainable Human Safety initiative launched in December 2020 with two reports detailing the staggering cost of military spending to people and the planet: Indefensible: The true cost of the global military to our climate and human security assesses the impact of the global military on climate change, human security and development and Global military spending, sustainable human safety and value for money makes the case for modernising defence and security thinking and spending. TPNS was founded by former senior Christian Aid trade, tax and climate justice campaigners.

Christine Allen Executive Director, CAFOD (UK/Int’l)
Amir Amirani Documentary Filmmaker (UK)
Nick Buxton Future Labs Co-ordinator, The Transnational Institute (Netherlands/Int’l)
Linsey Cottrell Environmental Policy Officer, The Conflict and Environment Observatory (UK/Europe)
Dr Neta C. Crawford Professor and Chair of the Department Political Science, Boston University and Co Director of the Costs of War Project. (USA)
Nick Dearden Director, Global Justice Now (UK)
Dr Richard Dixon Director of Friends of the Earth Scotland
Fiona Dove Executive Director, The Transnational Institute (Netherlands/Int’l)
Martin Drewry CEO Health Poverty Action (UK/Int’l)
Brian Eno Musician (UK)
Andrew Feinstein Author, former ANC MP, Executive Director Shadow World Investigations (UK/Int’l)
Pat Gaffney Vice President Pax Christi (UK)
Dionne Gravesande Writer & campaigner. International development, race and faith (UK/Int’l)
Dr Eric D U Gutierrez Independent researcher
Jeff Halper Author, Founder Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (Israel)
Dr Jason Hickel Senior Lecturer, Goldsmiths University of London; Visiting Senior Fellow, International Inequalities Institute at LSE (UK/Eswatini)
Charles Kenny Author, Economist (USA)
Dr Ho-Chih Lin Lead Researcher, Tipping Point North South / Transform Defence (UK)
Tamara Lorincz Author, PhD candidate in Global Governance at the Balsillie School for International Affairs (Canada)
Caroline Lucas Green Party MP (UK)
Priya Lukka Visiting Fellow Goldsmiths University of London, International Development Economist (UK)
Dr Michael E. Mann Distinguished Professor, Penn State University; Member, U.S. National Academy of Sciences
Linda Melvern Author, Journalist (UK)
Pablo Navarrete Journalist, Documentary Filmmaker (UK/Chile)
Dr Benjamin Neimark Senior Lecturer at the Lancaster Environment Centre, Lancaster University (UK)
Giuseppe Onufrio Executive Director, Greenpeace Italy
Dr Stuart Parkinson Executive Director, Scientists for Global Responsibility (UK)
Dr. Samuel Perlo‑Freeman Research Coordinator, Campaign Against Arms Trade (UK)
Prof Paul Rogers
John Sauven Executive Director, Greenpeace UK
Dr Shanon Shah Director, Faith for the Climate (UK)
Andrew Simms Co-director New Weather Institute, Co-ordinator Rapid Transition Alliance (UK)
Fionna Smyth Head of Global Policy and Advocacy, Christian Aid   UK/Int’l


[1] https://www.ipcc.ch/sr15/

[2] Ho-Chih Lin and Deborah Burton, ‘Indefensible: The true cost of the global military to our climate and human security,’ Transform Defence, 2020, https://transformdefence.org/publication/indefensible/; Various reports by Stuart Parkinson and colleagues, Scientists for Global Responsibility, https://www.sgr.org.uk/projects/climate-change-military-main-outputs.

[3] Trends in World Military Expenditure, 2020, SIPRI, https://sipri.org/publications/2021/sipri-fact-sheets/trends-world-military-expenditure-2020

[4] Ho-Chih Lin and Deborah Burton, ‘Indefensible: The true cost of the global military to our climate and human security,’ Transform Defence, 2020, https://transformdefence.org/publication/indefensible/; Neta C. Crawford, “Pentagon Fuel Use, Climate Change, and the Costs of War,” Costs of War Project, 2019, https://watson.brown.edu/costsofwar/papers/ClimateChangeandCostofWar; Oliver Belcher, Patrick Bigger, Ben Neimark, and Cara Kennelly, “Hidden Carbon Costs of the ‘everywhere war’: Logistics, Geopolitical Ecology, and the Carbon Boot-print of the US Military,” 2019, https://rgs-ibg.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/tran.12319; Various reports by Stuart Parkinson and colleagues, Scientists for Global Responsibility, https://www.sgr.org.uk/projects/climate-change-military-main-outputs.