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How the world's militaries hide their huge

How the world’s militaries hide their huge

There is a need for Western powers to be far more open and transparent about their emissions world’s militaries Climate change leadership requires more than stirring speeches. It means facing up to hard truths.

Despite the outsized role of militaries we know surprisingly little about their emissions.

Some scientists estimate that together militaries and their supporting industries might account for up to 5% of global emissions: More than civilian aviation and shipping combined.

The US can take the credit for that. In 1997 its negotiating team won a blanket military exemption under the Kyoto climate accord. Speaking in the Senate the following year the now special presidential envoy for climate John Kerry hailed it as “a terrific job”.

The 2015 Paris Agreement removed Kyoto’s military exemption but left military emissions reporting voluntary.

Our research into this military emissions gap has for the first time shed light on the dire state of global military emissions reporting.

Underreporting is the norm as is data that is inaccessible or aggregated with nonmilitary sources.

For example Canada reports its emissions under multiple IPCC categories reporting military flights under general transport and energy for bases under

Military emissions reporting by the many countries that do not have to report annually to the UNFCCC is even worse. This includes countries with massive military budgets such as China India Saudi Arabia and Israel.

This vast military imprint on the Earth’s atmosphere is not on the formal agenda of COP26. However hopes are that it will be for COP27 next year as countries begin to wake up to their huge military carbon boot print.

In June the military alliance NATO announced that it would set concrete targets for it “to contribute to the goal of Net Zero emissions by 2050.

Meanwhile countries like Switzerland and the UK which have passed domestic legislation setting net zero targets are finally having to face up to the uncomfortable truth that their defense ministries are the largest institutional emitters within government.

While military emissions are gaining attention the culture of military environmental exceptionalism that birthed it will continue to drive the long war that militaries have been quietly waging on the climate.

For all their spending power and political influence militaries are behind the curve on sustainability.

This was clear from NATO’s additional 2021 pledge to develop a carbon counting methodology for its members to use an area where militaries are lagging behind other major sectors.

Which emissions should militaries count? Should such accounting exercises focus exclusively on fuel use and energy consumption?

Emissions from supply chains can be 5.5 times higher than an organization’s own operational emissions.

And what about overseas operations whether overt or covert or the wider climatic costs of war and peace such as landscape degradation deforestation or rebuilding?

Western governments including institutions like Nato are busy positioning themselves as leaders on the security implications of the climate crisis.

Their credibility on climate security and on climate action more broadly will be contingent on their willingness to first face up to some difficult truths about their own contribution to climate change.

It will also require far more openness and transparency. Both will be vital for delivering real change rather than more weaponsgrade greenwash.

There should be no illusions as to the scale of the challenge governments face War is a dirty business.

Militaries are institutionally complex and procurement cycles last decades which can “lock in” emissions. Things will not change overnight but what they do not count we can’t see. And what we cannot see they will not cut.

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