Democracy Now! interview: How Military Spending Fuels Environmental Damage

Two of our co-authors of the ‘Climate Collateral’ report were interview by Democracy Now!


AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!,, The War and Peace Report. We’re broadcasting from the U.N. climate summit in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt.

We turn now to look at the link between military spending and the climate crisis. A new report by the Transnational Institute examines how military spending and arms sales not only increase greenhouse gas emissions, but also divert financial resources and attention away from tackling the climate emergency.

In a moment, we’ll be joined by two co-authors of the report, but first this is a short video produced by the Transnational Institute.

MUHAMMAD AL-KASHEF: My name is Muhammad. I’m a human rights lawyer, researcher and migration activist. I have been born and raised in Egypt, until I left the country in 2017 because of the risks and the threats that I faced personally because of my activism and work. When I left Egypt and became an exile, I felt like a tree that you took out of the soil.

Egypt is in the international spotlight today for hosting the world’s most important climate talks. But the fact that its host is the military dictator Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, it says a lot about the world’s most powerful nations’ real priorities. Sisi’s regime survives thanks to a huge flow of oil, arms and EU money.

The richest and most polluting countries today spend 30 times as much on military as they do on climate finance for the world’s most climate-affected people. Rather than providing aid, these same rich countries are interested in providing weapons and arms to countries like Egypt. And every dollar of military spending is also worsening the climate crisis.

A militarized nation like Egypt and an accelerated arms race globally is the opposite of climate justice. We cannot allow my experience and the experience of many other Egyptians to become the model for how we respond to an escalating climate crisis. Climate justice requires democracy, human rights, dignity and demilitarization. It requires a world that puts people before profits and peace before war.

AMY GOODMAN: That’s a video produced by the Transnational Institute, which has just published the new report, “Climate Collateral: How military spending accelerates climate breakdown.”

We are joined now by two guests. Nick Buxton is a researcher at the Transnational Institute, joining us from Wales, and Muhammad al-Kashef is an attorney and migration activist living in Germany.

Nick, let’s begin with you. Why don’t you lay out the findings of your report, that looks into military spending, arms and weapons sales from the world’s richest nations, and the deep impacts that it has on countries’ capacity to address the climate catastrophe that the world is facing right now?

NICK BUXTON: Yes. Thanks, Amy. Thanks for the invitation to be on your show.

This report, as you know, is coming on the back of big discussions at this COP, which we just heard about in this earlier section, about the need that the poorest countries, who are most impacted by climate change, are saying that we need finance to both adapt to climate change and to deal with the loss and damage. And we hear John Kerry — you were just quoting the earlier clip — saying, “Name me a nation that has trillions of dollars to deal with this,” except — basically saying washing his hands of the situation and refusing to accept some responsibility.

And yet, what this report shows is that there is trillions of dollars. The richest countries, which are called Annex II countries under the U.N. climate talks, have dedicated $9.45 trillion to military spending in the last eight years, between 2013 and 2021. And that is 30 times more than they have dedicated to climate finance. And they’re still not delivering on their promises to deliver the $100 billion a year that was promised way back in 2009 now. So, what we’re seeing, firstly, in this report is that there is resources, but it’s been dedicated to military spending.

The second main finding is that, of this military spending, it is very much tied to a very high-emitting situation, that we’re creating greenhouse gases with every dollar we spend on the military. And that’s because the military depends, with its jets, its tanks, its ships, on high levels of use of fossil fuels. So, for example, the F-35 jet, which is the main fighter jet that the U.S. is now deploying, uses 5,600 gallons of liters an hour in its deployment. And these weapons, which are bought, then are usually in operation for 30 years, so it’s locking in that carbon for a long time to come. So, we’re creating a situation where actually the military is contributing deeply to the crisis.

And then the third main finding of the report was looking at what the richest countries, the Annex II countries, are doing in terms of arms sales. We actually found out — found that the richest countries are supplying arms to all 40 of the most climate-vulnerable countries. So, what we’re seeing is we’re not providing the finance that we need for the poorest countries, but we are providing arms. In a situation of climate instability and in terms of a real poverty and people really facing on the frontlines of climate change, we’re actually adding fuel to the fire by providing the arms that could lead to conflict. And this, as the video shared, is the complete opposite of climate justice.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about the armed forces and fuel consumption, Nick?

NICK BUXTON: Yeah. There’s a report just came out actually just a couple of days ago, which has been estimating how much the military contribute towards emissions. And it calculates that the world’s military contribute 5.5% of the total emissions of greenhouse gas emissions. If it was considered a country, it would actually come fourth, so it’s just after Russia in terms of how much emissions that they produce. So, it’s a very substantial contribution to the problem. The Pentagon in the U.S. is the single largest institutional emitter of carbon emissions. And the 5.5%, for example, is double what is produced by civil aviation.

And what is really shocking is that within the U.N. system, it is not properly counted. So it’s one of the few bodies and organs that doesn’t have to report all its emissions to the UNFCCC and the IPCC. And that was because the U.S., under the Bill Clinton administration, actually carved out an exemption for the Pentagon. So, at the moment, that exemption — in 2015, it was watered down so now they can report it, but it’s not — it’s still voluntary, and we still have a very incomplete picture of actually how many emissions are produced.

So, this is one of the key demands that is being raised at the COP, is that we’re doing some estimates that it’s a really significant player, but it’s absolutely crucial that it becomes mandatory for the military to provide it and to show all their emissions, not just of the emissions of their equipment, but also the supply chains of the arms sales and so on, because we do know that these systems are very highly tentative users of fossil fuels, and they’re also very much embedded in a system that has been protecting the fossil fuel economy globally for a long time.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to bring Muhammad al-Kashef into this conversation. Muhammad, Egypt is the third-largest importer of weapons in the world, one of dozens of countries that has received more and more military aid, arms and weapons from the United States, from the European Union, as well as from other rich nations. How has this contributed not only to the worsening pollution and the impacts of the climate crisis in the country and the world, but also to serious human rights violations committed in Egypt by the Egyptian military?

Read the full interview here.

2 thoughts on “Democracy Now! interview: How Military Spending Fuels Environmental Damage

Comments are closed.