Open Letter to UK hosted G7 meeting. Military emissions, climate change and net zero

Open Letter to UK hosted G7 meeting. Military emissions, climate change and net zero

Ahead of the G7 meeting in Cornwall, TPNS/Transform Defence published an Open Letter to PM Boris Johnson. The 26 (international) supporting signatories are seniors figures from science/academia, development and environment NGOs, activism and the arts.

The open letter called for G7 militaries to come clean on their carbon emissions and absence of any meaningful path to get to net zero, ahead of COP 26 in Glasgow. The letter provided four concrete recommendations. Open letter & signatories below

Transform Defence was also covered in a recent article for German public media broadcaster and publisher Deutsche Welle: Scorched Earth: The Climate Impact of Conflict by Stuart Braun.


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.
    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.
    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.
    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/

TPNS new initiative launched with two new reports and a call to ‘Transform Defence’ on 5th anniversary of Paris Climate Agreement

TPNS new initiative launched with two new reports and a call to ‘Transform Defence’ on 5th anniversary of Paris Climate Agreement

Tipping Point North South has pulled together its various military spending strands under one new banner: Transform Defence for Sustainable Human Safety is a project comprising a number of elements including the Five Percent Proposal and the case that military spending is an urgent international development issue; the global military’s impact on climate change and human insecurity; the absence in UN processes of the global military’s emissions accounting; and its Green New Deal Plus.

Transform Defence for Sustainable Human Safety ​describes the paradigm shift we need for all defence, security​, foreign and international development​ policies​ in a climate changed, post-pandemic world. It challenges NGOs and policy-makers alike to undertake brave discussion about redefining and re-making foreign and defence policy.

The two reports detail the staggering cost of military spending to people and the planet.

The first report, Indefensible: The true cost of the global military to our climate and human security assesses the impact of the global military on climate change, human security and development. The second report Global military spending, sustainable human safety and value for money makes the case for modernising defence and security thinking and spending in order to effectively deal with the biggest threats to our collective safety: climate change and pandemic.[1]

Together, the reports argue that the US$1.9 trillion[2] spent globally each year on the world’s military delivers nothing to defend citizens facing these twin threats. Five years after the Paris Climate Conference, it is time to add the global military’s carbon footprint to the ‘net zero’ debate. The reports call for an assessment of the accountability, efficacy, relevance and value for money of our global military to the threats we face could not be more timely as lives and livelihoods worldwide are destroyed by a foreseen yet completely unaddressed ‘Tier 1’ security threat – pandemic.

For example, Indefensible: The true cost of the global military to our climate and human security estimates that if the world’s militaries were combined together as a single country, they would be the 29th biggest oil consumer in the world, just ahead of Belgium or South Africa. To put it another way, this is half the oil consumption of the world’s 5th biggest economy, the UK. Runaway global military spending enables the world’s militaries to remain the biggest institutional users of fossil fuels in the world and to be major driver for climate change. A carbon-neutral world demands we fully decarbonise our militaries.

“[This report] is an important addition to the growing evidence on the significant role of military emissions in causing climate change. Using a novel methodology, it widens the analysis to all the world’s militaries… it connects the dots between military fuel use, military spending, war, and the burden of climate change on development,” says Neta C. Crawford, Professor and Chair of Political Science Boston University and Co-Director of the Costs of War Project. “… it [also] offers important solutions. It is essential reading for all those concerned with climate change and the path to a sustainable and secure future.”

And as nations update their 2020 Nationally Determined Contributions,[3] the Transform Defence reports call for NGOs and policy-makers alike to undertake a practical, imaginative, brave discussion about redefining and re-making defence policy so it is truly fit-for-purpose and accords the same level of attention, urgency and resources to pandemic and climate change as is granted to conventional security threats.

“[TPNS’s] Global military spending, sustainable human safety and value for money report … demonstrates how deeply inadequate the concept of ‘national security’ is in light of the ongoing pandemic and the rapidly unfolding threats of climate change,” says Jen Maman, Senior Peace Adviser, Greenpeace International. “It asks what we can learn by looking at the policy and spending priorities of governments, and argues that, unquestioned and at our peril, governments are massively outspending on weaponry compared to the climate emergency or global health protection.’’

As we end this very difficult year and look ahead to 2021, we very much hope this new project can add value to the post-Covid recovery debate and in tandem with the discussions leading up to the Glasgow hosted COP in 2021, make the case that the time has come to transform defence for sustainable human security.

Twitter: @TransformDef

Facebook: facebook.com/transformdefence

Notes:

In 2016, total public expenditures on climate change (international and domestic) amounted to US$141 billion while global military expenditures was US$1.7 trillion.[4] On average, the expenditure of national governments on climate change amounted to 8.5% of what they spent on defence, a ratio of 12:1.[5] Since 2016, global military spending has gone up significantly.

Indefensible: The true cost of the global military to our climate and human security also estimates that the global military and defence industry combined accounts for at least 1% of total global greenhouse gas emissions. This is larger than the annual greenhouse gas emissions of the entire country of Italy and not much smaller than the total GHG emissions of the UK and France respectively.

For comparison, international civil aviation is responsible for around 1.3% of global GHG emissions and is a climate change focus of public and political attention. Meanwhile, the global military-industrial complex accounts for a similar  amount of greenhouse gas emissions as civil aviation but it receives no such scrutiny.

Global military spending, sustainable human safety and value for money report uses the F35 fighter jet as a case study to illustrate this imbalance. Had the US$2 trillion estimated global total lifetime cost of F-35 programme been applied to the activities/areas/agencies below this is what the global community would be receiving instead:

  • Climate finance for 20 years
  • UN disaster response for the next 400 years
  • UN disaster risk reduction for the next 4,000 years
  • Global biodiversity conservation at US$100bn per annum for the next 20 years
  • WHO at US$2bn per annum for the next 1,000 years
  • WHO’s COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund for 2,963 years
  • Global pandemic surveillance and control at US$8bn per annum for the next 250 years
  • UN peacekeeping operations at current US$5bn per annum for the next 444 years
  • UN peacekeeping at US$15bn per annum for the next 133 years

References

[1] Both reports build on major work published earlier: the USA Pentagon emissions report “Pentagon Fuel Use, Climate Change, and the Costs of War,” by Professor Neta Crawford of the Costs of War Project; UK military emissions “The Environmental Impacts of the UK Military Sector,” by Dr. Stuart Parkinson, Scientists for Global Responsibility; and “Hidden Carbon Costs of the ‘everywhere war’: Logistics, Geopolitical Ecology, and the Carbon Boot-print of the US Military,” by Oliver Belcher, Patrick Bigger, Ben Neimark, and Cara Kennelly.

[2] Trends In World Military Expenditure, 2019, SIPRI. https://www.sipri.org/sites/default/files/2020-04/fs_2020_04_milex_0.pdf

[3] See https://unfccc.int/process-and-meetings/the-paris-agreement/the-paris-agreement/nationally-determined-contributions-ndcs

[4] https://climatepolicyinitiative.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/2017-Global-Landscape-of-Climate-Finance.pdf

[5] https://www.oxfordresearchgroup.org.uk/a-tale-of-two-puzzles-accounting-for-military-and-climate-change-expenditures

Dr Strangelove warned the oil industry about global warming 60 years ago

Four others joined Dunlop at the podium that day, one of whom had made the journey from California – and Hungary before that. The nuclear weapons physicist Edward Teller had, by 1959, become ostracized by the scientific community for betraying his colleague J. Robert Oppenheimer, but he retained the embrace of industry and government. Teller’s task that November fourth was to address the crowd on “energy patterns of the future,” and his words carried an unexpected warning:

Ladies and gentlemen, I am to talk to you about energy in the future. I will start by telling you why I believe that the energy resources of the past must be supplemented. First of all, these energy resources will run short as we use more and more of the fossil fuels. But I would […] like to mention another reason why we probably have to look for additional fuel supplies. And this, strangely, is the question of contaminating the atmosphere. [….] Whenever you burn conventional fuel, you create carbon dioxide. [….] The carbon dioxide is invisible, it is transparent, you can’t smell it, it is not dangerous to health, so why should one worry about it?

Carbon dioxide has a strange property. It transmits visible light but it absorbs the infrared radiation which is emitted from the earth. Its presence in the atmosphere causes a greenhouse effect [….] It has been calculated that a temperature rise corresponding to a 10 per cent increase in carbon dioxide will be sufficient to melt the icecap and submerge New York. All the coastal cities would be covered, and since a considerable percentage of the human race lives in coastal regions, I think that this chemical contamination is more serious than most people tend to believe.

Continue reading

Look back, not forward, to connect with conservatives

The scientists theorize that “future framing” may contribute to conservative cynicism, especially “when year after year, we don’t seem to get that close to death,” Baldwin said. “Conservatives might become rather skeptical of the science that led us to the conclusion that we are in trouble. Perhaps focusing on the possible negative future doesn’t drive home the fact that our Earth really has changed a lot.”

This strategy might also counter the argument often invoked by conservatives that today’s global warming is just another example of natural climate variations that have occurred historically. …

In one of the study’s experiments, “We show people pictures of environmental change — for example, an image of a lake full of water, right next to an image of that same lake totally dried up,” he said. “Conservatives really respond to these images of drastic change from the more ‘perfect’ past. I can imagine doing something similar with extreme weather events as the focus. Following a large hurricane, for example, we could focus on how the planet in the past did not experience such events, and then create a contrast by saying something like, ‘Shouldn’t we work hard to return to a state of the planet where we don’t have to experience them anymore?’

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In 2011, solar power reached a tipping point.

The scientists found that, from 1975 up to 2011, solar panels were actually a source of greenhouse gases globally. The emissions avoided by existing solar panels were insufficient to offset the amount of emissions being produced by the rapid production of new solar panels.

But in 2011, this flipped. Instead of being a net source of emissions, the solar industry started avoiding more emissions than it emitted, providing a net climate benefit. Continue reading

Don’t Trump Climate Change

In a paper in the journal Science Advances, they said the actual range could be between 4.78C to 7.36C by 2100, based on one set of calculations.

Some have dismissed the idea that the world would continue to burn fossil fuels despite obvious global warming, but emissions are still increasing despite a 1C rise in average thermometer readings since the 1880s.

And US President-elect Donald Trump has said he will rip up America’s commitments to the fight against climate change.
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UN: 3C of warming under current global climate pledges

The United Nations Environment Programme (Unep) said that pledges put forward to cut emissions would see temperatures rise by 3C above pre-industrial levels, far above the the 2C of the Paris climate agreement, which comes into force on Friday.

At least a quarter must be cut from emissions by the end of the next decade, compared with current trends, the UN said.
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Boiling the Humanity

This, on current trends, will be the hottest year ever measured. The previous record was set in 2015; the one before in 2014. Fifteen of the 16 warmest years have occurred in the 21st century. Each of the past 14 months has beaten the global monthly temperature record. But you can still hear people repeating the old claim, first proposed by fossil fuel lobbyists, that global warming stopped in 1998.
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Important Lessons from Studying the Planet

Lesson One. Physics Trumps Politics and Economics. Every Time.

The first lesson I learned from the planet is about the absurdity of our “real world” politics and economics.

Despite what many people claim, politics and economics are arbitrary systems of belief that people in power have invented over the years. And regardless of what we have been brought up to believe, the planet does not actually obey the rules of politics and economics. It never has.

Lesson Two. Thermodynamics and Systems Thinking are Powerful Tools.

The next lesson I’ve learned over the years is that thermodynamics and systems thinking are very powerful tools for understanding and describing the workings of our planet.

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Military and the Climate Change

Sara Flounders’ remarkable 2009 article on the Copenhagen climate meeting tied together the military and climate change, but delinking of the two persists. She wrote that “with more than 15,000 participants from 192 countries, including more than 100 heads of state, as well as 100,000 demonstrators in the streets – it is important to ask: How is it possible that the worst polluter of carbon dioxide and other toxic emissions on the planet is not a focus of any conference discussion or proposed restrictions? …the Pentagon has a blanket exemption in all international climate agreements.”

Overall, environmentalists pay little attention to the military, and the anti-war movement does not address the climate. Both squander precious time.   At a slow pace, industrialized countries have been “transitioning” to clean energy since the 1960s, without any specified and enforceable time frame.   Renewables remain a very small part of the energy mix and will not remedy the carbon-intensive military or industrial agriculture. Transition fuels like natural gas and biofuels have proven to be disastrous to human communities and to the climate. By contrast is the fast pace rapidly rising temperature, accelerating greenhouse gas concentration (due to amplifying feedbacks), increased military spending including nuclear weapons, and new weapons/surveillance/pacification technology.[1]   At some point recently, the climate goal shifted from elimination of greenhouse gases to mitigation. Continue reading

Climate change is not just about carbon dioxide – the dangerously high level of methane leak to the atmosphere

In February, Harvard researchers published an explosive paper in Geophysical Research Letters. Using satellite data and ground observations, they concluded that the nation as a whole is leaking methane in massive quantities. Between 2002 and 2014, the data showed that US methane emissions increased by more than 30 percent, accounting for 30 to 60 percent of an enormous spike in methane in the entire planet’s atmosphere.
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Green investment bank loses its green purpose

What a joke!

The bank set up by the government to to fund green infrastructure and cited frequently by David Cameron as evidence of the UK’s leadership on climate change will no longer be required by law to invest in green schemes, under moves put forward by ministers.

Campaigners said that changes proposed on Tuesday by small business minister Anna Soubry effectively delete the clause enshrined in legislation that gives the green investment bank its green purpose.

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Security-led approach to climate change and complex emergencies

Dystopian preparations by the state are reflected in the corporate arena. Where we see a future climate crisis, many companies see only opportunity: oil firms looking forward to melting ice caps delivering new accessible fossil fuels; security firms touting the latest technologies to secure borders from ‘climate refugees’; or investment fund managers speculating on weather-related food prices – to name but a few. In 2012, Raytheon, one of the world’s largest defence contractors, announced “expanded business opportunities” arising from “security concerns and their possible consequences,” due to the “effects of climate change” in the form of “storms, droughts, and floods”. The rest of the defence sector has been quick to follow. Continue reading