COP27 IPB webinar: Observations from the Blue Zone – military emissions and spending

Video: watch here.



We will start today with Deborah Burton giving us a summary of her experiences at COP27. And then open up the floor to questions both for those who are with us on Zoom, and those who are watching the live stream. So without further ado, I will turn the floor over to Deborah to tell us about your experiences.


Thanks Sean.

This is my first time at COP and we had our side event here on the Blue Zone last Wednesday, organized by the government of Ukraine. Georgia and Moldova also contributed. We were there to present our report on military emissions and the title of the event was Dealing with military emissions under the UNFCCC.

Ukraine’s presentation was about how they’re trying to get an emissions accounting framework that can address the seven month conflict. They presented their findings estimated at 100m tonnes CO2 so far – due to fires, war/weaponry, destruction and IDPs in that order.

Next was Axel Michaelowa lead author of our report on military emissions. And his primary points were very strong, saying that the absence of military emissions cannot be swept under the carpet. It was really important that someone of his standing, who has been to every COP, advises countries and who wrote on this topic 20 years ago, in regard to Kyoto, stood there and said ‘this must be on the agenda. for the next AR7 cycle’.

My piece really was to speak to civil society representative. My job was to really do the best I could to reflect everything that we are working on, which is both the emission side and spending. The key elements of our report work is a UNFCCC submission to bring global emissions onto its agenda; an IPCC special report; and getting military emissions into this global stocktake – which is a massive information gathering exercise to be presented to COP28.

I was worried about what the reaction might be to my presentation – emissions and spending – but I had to say it was the opposite. A good number of people including IPCC member came up to say thank you for what you said, can we have a copy of your talk.  The media that were in the room – Bloomberg, AFP the French Press Agency, Swiss TV, German radio – all covered it. And actually Bloomberg quoted the 5% (military) global emissions stat.

Just today, since the event, there was 160 downloads of our report.

And for the next few days, as you wander around you stumble on some fantastic events when you’re lost! But talking to people, having random conversations with people, I would say people are aware of military emissions. When you explain what you’re there for – the under reporting/ voluntary military emissions – and getting it onto the UNFCCC agenda, coupled with spending and an arms race, people understand immediately.

I think this time next year we’ll be able to push on many more openings.

Military spending is more difficult because, you know, people are just not thinking about military spending. But what I’ve been able to do is to sort of – where I can – insert military spending into climate finance and Loss and Damage coversations, to make that connection.

What I think has been a bit of a shock to me – over and above the inevitable battle between activism and negotiators –- is the huge amount of business done here. We know the fossil fuel companies and mining companies are here. But the country pavilions and the business stands are big. And I guess that’s been the big surprise to me. I didn’t realize it there were so many commercial interests attending.

I think they should get rid of all of that stuff. And all of that space filled up with civil society.


Thank you, Deborah. It’s great to see that there is some potential for the pickup of mentioning military emissions in the overall CO2 emissions, both through news sources, official governments, and I assume as well, some activists..We will now open up to the question and answer session. And perhaps just to get us started, while we wait for some other hands to be raised or questions to be asked. I’ll ask one quick question here, which is just when it comes to the activism, I am curious, if through your experiences, you’ve had much interaction with climate activists in particular, are either in favor of considering or maybe not as interested in the topic of military spending military missions, and how has been the reaction for kind of the underground climate activist? In your opinion?


I have been almost entirely in the blue zone. So the climate hubs were where Nancy and Tamara were, I’m really not in those spaces. I’ve been spending all my time in those other Blue Zone spaces. What do I know, is inside the blue zone I think this topic of military emissions is out. So I’m assuming that for activists, it will be increasingly a no brainer.


That’s good to know. It also provides some insights into really the distinctions between the green zone and the blue zone, who’s in what spaces and possibly that the lack of overlap, and maybe that’s a bit concerning as well, between the activist community and more of the professional diplomatic community, or politicians.