Today we are here under the call: unite to survive
Over and above ourselves, UNITE TO SURVIVE us an instruction we need those with their hands on the levers of power to act on. And not just those who make the economic value judgements but those who make the foreign and defence policy value judgements as well.
At the same time as we push for rapid economic transformation and an urgent end to fossil fuel addiction, we must appreciate that without a parallel shift in foreign and defence policy, we are missing an important part of the human challenge in the face of climate change.
I say ‘we’ – but if you are here today – you know this.
The task is to get this message out more widely.
Until Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, military greenhouse gas emissions in wars were generally absent from both media coverage and climate policy-making.
Never-ending conflicts in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Palestine, Yemen certainly did not bring attention to this. With the bombardment of Ukraine on our TVs every day, it seemed the world was finally ready to acknowledge addressing this military emissions elephant in the room.
And that elephant in the room includes military emissions across the piece:
– operations in peace-time and war
– overseas bases
– the defence industry itself – the whole ‘military complex’ supply chain
– and finally, the emissions burden from the aftermath of conflict-related destruction and rebuilding.
And yet – and yet –
Although militaries are huge fossil fuel consumers – with large and complex supply chains, only a few States provide disaggregated fuel use data to the UNFCCC and as a result,
The Data is poor.
For various reasons, including national self-interest and confidentiality, many national governments have consistently ensured that this aspect of their emissions is not addressed in our collective struggle against climate breakdown.
There is an unacceptable lack of transparency and accountability for this particular sector.
What we do know – albeit drawn from patchy and partial data reporting – is that militaries and their supporting industries – the defence sector – might account for around 5% of global greenhouse gas emissions.
This is more than emissions from civilian aviation and shipping combined. If the world’s militaries were a nation, they would be the 4th largest emitter.
And BTW this does NOT include conflict-related emissions in war zones.
LAST YEAR AT COP 27 a small first technical step was made in getting this issue onto the radar of the UNFCCC bodies at an official Side Event. Our collective calls for action on transparency of military emissions reporting was made and picked up widely – and those calls include getting military emissions onto the agenda of the next IPCC assessment cycle, leading to an IPCC special report into the global military and climate change. We also called for military emissions to be included in the Global Stocktake – a process designed to chart how well the Paris Agreement targets are being met – the first of which will be presented at COP this year.
There are many, many valid criticisms of these COP meetings but on this issue – military emissions reporting – there is no denying that COP26 Glasgow was where the issue broke out and at COP27 in Egypt, where we were able to advance the argument. We will continue on this path.
That includes rejecting ‘green warfare’ – in the face of the greatest collective threat to humanity – climate change – we need to leave the outdated 19th and 20th century geopolitics behind us. And it includes rejecting the myth of ‘green warfare’ since the big militaries can’t go fossil free even if they wanted to – the brand new F35, being bought up all over the world and planned to keep flying until 2070, drinks 6ooo litres of jet fuel per flying hour.
But military emissions are inextricably linked to something else.
And that is the ability to have high levels of military spending for big ticket fossil fuel reliant jets, warships, tanks, bombs and missiles.
Hence the G20 nations account for 87% of global military spending.
Between 2013 and 2021 global military spending increased 21.3%, now exceeding $2 trillion a year.
That was before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine super-charged already high levels of military spending – so now, the USA, EU and Russia are all hiking their military spending.
And all this means even greater military GHG emissions.
Meantime, the richest countries most responsible for the climate crisis spend far more on their militaries than on climate finance – spending at least 30 times as much on their militaries as they spend on providing climate finance.
There IS money for climate finance and it sits inside the $15 trillion that will be spent on the global military between now and 2030. Fifteen trillion.
On his visit to Ukraine, the UN Secretary General described war as an absurdity in this 21st century.
The truth is that in face of a possible a 3 degrees scenario – it is also insane.
As IPCC report after IPCC 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.
There is no secure nation without a climate-secure planet.