Blue Zone Side Event

Hosted by Ukraine & CAFOD

Dealing with Military Emissions within UNFCCC

Nov 9 – 1:15pm – Osiris Room

As part of a groundbreaking Blue Zone Side Event at COP27 on dealing with military and conflict related emissions under the UNFCCC, TPNS was invited to speak on the civil society perspective. It was organised by Ukraine and supported by CAFOD. TPNS joined their colleagues at Perspectives Climate Group, who presented our joint publication Military and Conflict-Related Emissions: Kyoto to Glasgow and Beyond. 150 attended the event, including national media from Germany, Switzerland Bloomberg and AFP.  Deborah Burton was also able to reference some of the findings of their joint-publication published Nov 10th with TNI and Stop Wappenhandel: Climate Collateral- How Military Spending is accelerating Climate breakdown.


Today’s side event is a significant step forward in bringing belated attention to military emissions reporting.

I would like to thank Ukraine’s MINISTRY FOR ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION & NATURAL RESOURCES and for inviting me to take part and speak to the civil society perspective; also to CAFOD in the UK for supporting this event.


There is ever growing public and media awareness of military emissions.

And the Glasgow COP proved to be a catalyst for civil society’s research, policy and campaigning efforts on this issue.

This was before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, as was the start of our work with Axel Michaelowa and Tobias Koch on the Perspectives’ Military Emissions report.

And it’s fair to say that until the Russian invasion, military greenhouse gas emissions in war was generally absent from both media coverage and climate policy-making.

War and conflict in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Palestine, Yemen did not bring attention to this.

With the bombardment of Ukraine on our TVs every day, we are here, finally, addressing this emissions elephant in the room. And Ukraine’s report presented today on the GHG emissions impact of Russia’s invasion  shows us how much we are missing from other conflicts, past and present – we have not had this level of detail on Iraq or Syria or other conflicts. It also proves that if governments want to, and vitally, have the capacity to calculate emissions from war, it can be done.

And from there, we can let the IPCC do its work.

For our part, the question of pushing this up the UNFCCC agenda was critical and the Perspectives’ Military Emissions report gave us a roadmap to set a detailed AND ambitious direction of travel.

This includes looking ahead to the IPCC AR7 cycle and the placing of climate change and global military emissions on its agenda in the hope and belief that this will stimulate yet further scientific reports and peer-reviewed publications.

At the recent 57th IPCC meeting, Ukraine asked if there was a methodology for calculating emissions from the rockets and explosions caused by Russia’s invasion.

The Co-Chair said they should be included in national GHG inventories.

And the Quaker UN Office representative, in welcoming this clarification, made this point: Where they are not included, our modelling and projections could be compromised.

SO ..we are a long way off knowing the full scale of military emissions across the piece:

  • operations in peace-time and war;
  • overseas bases;
  • the defence industry itself – supply chain
  • and, finally, the emissions burden from the aftermath of conflict-related destruction and rebuilding.

The disposal of rubble and rebuilding from infrastructure destruction is a long carbon intensive process. UNEP programme manager said of the Iraq cleanup – ‘the amount of trucking and emissions that would be required to dispose of this debris is like travelling from the earth to the moon multiple times’.

What we do know – albeit drawn from patchy and partial data reporting – is that some scientists estimate that militaries and their supporting industries together might account for around 5% of global emissions:

THIS IS MORE than emissions from civilian aviation and shipping combined.

The aim of the event today is to initiate dialogue on the possible ways to account for greenhouse gas emissions from military activities, in peace and war, under the UNFCCC and the Paris Agreement.

But many of the researchers and campaigners around the world who work on this issue – ourselves included – understand that this effort is inextricably linked to another.

And that is military spending.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has super-charged already high levels of military spending – currently $2tr p/a

  • In the coming years the EU anticipates a military spending boost by member states of at least 200bn EUROS.
  • The US has approved a record $840bn military budget for 2023.
  • Russia has approved a 27% increase in military spending – $83.5bn in 2023.

All of this means even greater military GHG emissions.

MEANTIME – today, November 9th is Finance Day at COP27. Loss and Damage is on the agenda.

And the richest countries most responsible for the climate crisis spend far more on their militaries than on climate finance.

Annex 2 countries spend at least 30 times as much on their militaries as they spend on providing climate finance.

And that climate finance promise of an insufficient annual $100bn is STILL yet to be met.

Let alone concrete commitments to loss and damage.

Yet one year’s military spending by the top 10 military spending nations would provide FIFTEEN YEARS of international climate finance at $100bn a year

To conclude:

The vital work to URGENTLY push military GHG emissions further up the UNFCCC agenda is to start a hugely important dialogue.

We have to cut emissions by 45% by 2030 and reach ‘net zero’ by 2050.

At the end of the Perspectives report, the authors say this

As the latest IPCC Assessment Report shows, all our attention should be directed towards achieving the 1.5° target. If we fail in this endeavour, the repercussions will be more deadly than all conflicts we have witnessed in the last decades.

As the UN Secretary General said on his visit to Ukraine, war is an absurdity in this 21st century.

We can go further. In face of a possible a 3 degrees scenario – it is also insane.

There can be no secure nation without a climate-secure planet.

Deborah Burton

Sharm El-Sheikh