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3rd June 2021

Open Letter

Prime Minister Boris Johnson

United Kingdom Presidency of the G7 Summit, 2021

Dear Prime Minister,

The global military: clock is ticking on fulfilling its responsibility in reaching net-zero

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] While all aspects of human activity are required to urgently decarbonise, one sector remains out of view: the global military.

The global military is currently 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.[2]

As a result, the global military, a significant contributor to climate change over decades, continues to carry out its business as usual. Its emissions are estimated to be several percent of total global carbon emissions and are comparable with the carbon emissions of civilian aviation.[3] Military organizations’ efforts to use renewable energy for installations and achieve greater efficiencies in operations are a start, but as yet insufficient and do not address the root cause — namely, 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.

Dr Hoesung Lee, Chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and Dr Fatih Birol, Executive Director of the International Energy Agency[4] have said: “Decarbonising entire economies means tackling sectors where emissions are especially difficult to reduce, such as shipping, trucks, aviation, heavy industries like steel, cement and chemicals, and agriculture.”

The global military must be added to this list.

As part of climate change-related discussions in Cornwall and, critically, in advance of the UK hosting the COP26 UN Climate Conference in November, the time has come for the world’s leading military spending nations to acknowledge the deliberate omission of full compulsory military emissions reporting, the consequential knowledge gap, and the imperative for the world’s militaries to transform themselves and help the world reach net-zero.

The G7 countries (UK, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and the USA) are all in the top 20 military spending nations.

To fully comply with the urgent need to reach net-zero, we call upon the G7 nations to support:

    1. AN IPCC TASK FORCE FOR DECARBONISATION OF MILITARIES AND MILITARY TECHNOLOGY INDUSTRIES. This task force should investigate the climate impact of the military/military technology sectors and devise proposals to address existing (and prevent further) damage. The task force should explore options and recommend solutions to fully decarbonise the world’s militaries and military technology industries without resorting to solutions that have other adverse environmental and social impacts (eg nuclear power and biofuels). Among these solutions should be proposals to transform military assets into climate-resilience hubs in vulnerable communities and countries, explore demilitarisation options, and enhance sustainable human security as defined by the United Nations.
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    2. AN IPCC SPECIAL REPORT on the role of the global militaries and military technology industries in contributing to climate change, assessing existing and future social and environmental impacts and exploring response options.
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    3. COMPULSORY SUBMISSIONS TO THE IPCC/UNFCCC OF FULL GHG MILITARY EMISSIONS REPORTING BY ALL NATIONS. Nations’ militaries, military industries, and attendant conflicts and wars must be included in their GHG emission reporting and carbon-reduction targets. This reporting must also include emissions incurred overseas, especially for nations with overseas bases. The Task Force on National GHG Inventories must look into how to incorporate these into the next Refinement to the IPCC Guidelines for National GHG Inventories.
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    4. NATIONALLY DETERMINED CONTRIBUTIONS (NDCs): ALL COUNTRIES TO INCLUDE THEIR MILITARIES AND MILITARY TECHNOLOGY INDUSTRIES IN THEIR GHG EMISSION REDUCTION PLANS AND TARGETS, taking into account total carbon bootprints of their militaries and military technology industries. Governments and militaries to publish their plans to decarbonise to meet the net-zero goal: simple technical measures (e.g. solar panels on military bases or electric killer drones) are not adequate and cannot be substitutes for serious demilitarisation options.

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.

The eyes of the world are on the UK for this hugely important G7 meeting. 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 G7 of 2021 which can no longer be swept under the carpet.

Yours sincerely,

Deborah Burton, Kevin McCullough

Co-Founders Tipping Point North South/Transform Defence Project

Supporting Signatories

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)
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)
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)
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)
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
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)

References

[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/; 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.

[3] 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.

[4] https://www.ipcc.ch/2020/07/31/energy-climatechallenge/