Perspectives Climate Group has been commissioned by Tipping Point North South to review the current state of the art on military greenhouse gas emissions in peace-time and war and their treatment under the UNFCCC process. The report will be fed into the UNFCCC negotiation process.  

Axel Michaelowa and his co-author Tobias Koch were the first experts worldwide to address this topic in a research article in the renowned journal “Climatic Change” in 2001 and their 2022 report builds on that important early work.

The report highlights that

  • The Paris Agreement transparency framework should be developed further to include rules for reporting of military and conflict-related emissions. In this context, an end to confidentiality regarding the reporting of fuel consumption for military purposes is necessary.
  • The IPCC National Greenhouse Gas Inventory Guidelines should be revised to ensure that not only a narrow definition of military and conflict-related emissions prevails. National inventories need to ensure that the all the different types of military emissions are duly reported.
  • Military and conflict-related emissions should be duly considered in the Global Stocktake on the world’s collective progress towards limiting global warming well below 2°C, due to be finalized by COP28 in 2024.
  • A department of the UNFCCC Secretariat should engage in remote sensing of high intensity destruction of carbon reservoirs like fossil fuel deposits, cities and forest fires reported in a separate “conflict account” in the transparency regime. The Paris Agreement should be strengthened to allocate the responsibility to emissions from conflicts. This should be based on the principles for an accounting framework developed in this report.
  • An IPCC Special Report on climate change and global military in peace and war should be put on the agenda of the AR7 cycle.

Military emissions, in peace and war, direct or indirect (e.g. generated by the defence industry more widely) are far from fully known. In this climate changed world, we are urgently looking at every aspect of human activity through the climate change lens. The Russian invasion of Ukraine has, finally, brought the world’s attention to the fact that military operations and emissions are a non-negligible part of the man-made climate crisis. This is over and above the terrible human cost of war and conflict.

We hope that civil society, alongside all those nations on the front-line of climate change, can see merit in the recommendations of this report by pushing for this matter to be addressed in international climate negotiations. As the Indian subcontinent experiences unprecedented prolonged nearly 50°C heat way ahead of summertime; as the Antarctic ice shelf collapses; as forest fires burn across the globe, UN Sec Gen Antonio Guterres’s comment in Bucha that “war is an absurdity in the 21st century” resonates more loudly than ever.

We hope this advocacy briefing and the main report from which it is taken can provide context, shed light and offer practical solutions as well as ambitious demands over the coming years on a topic that goes to the heart of how humanity maps the road ahead as we collectively face ever-greater climate chaos.

Deborah Burton & Dr. Ho-Chih Lin, Tipping Point North South/Transform Defence project

The main report is available here.