Every sector needs to make cuts to emissions, including the military.
Liberal and conservative MEPs blocked an initiative that would have contributed towards improving European military emissions reporting in the run up to COP27.
A tale of two amendments
Ahead of COP27, liberal and conservative MEPs voted against two amendments aimed at tackling the military emissions gap. The amendment had been tabled as part of the Parliament’s annual resolution outlining European priorities ahead of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC’s) COPs each year.
One amendment,1 tabled by The Left in the European Parliament, called for Member States to introduce compulsory disaggregated reporting of military emissions to the UNFCCC, and to lead by example by publishing their own military emissions as standard practice. The other amendment,2 tabled by the Greens/EFA group, largely mirrored the aims of a resolution already passed at committee level earlier this year, and which had been supported by the same parties that chose to vote it down this around.
That earlier resolution, which was in support of the European External Action Service’s (EEAS) Climate Change and Defence Roadmap, had stressed the need for all sectors to contribute to emissions reductions. It had also underlined the need for the defence sector to adapt to climate change to achieve the EU’s climate neutrality objectives, while maintaining operational effectiveness. Moreover, the resolution also supported mandatory military emissions reporting to the UNFCCC, noting that “without reporting and transparency, there will be no pressure to cut emissions and no means of determining the impact of any pledges.”
The EEAS Roadmap resolution had been approved in June, by 356 to 159, and with the support of Renew Europe’s liberals, the Socialists and Democrats, some of the Left, most of the European People’s Party and the Greens. Green MEP Thomas Waitz, who acted as rapporteur on the EEAS Roadmap in the Parliament, condemned the rejection of the amendment: “That this same call was voted down by conservatives and liberals in the COP27 resolution is contradictory and harmful. Member States and EU institutions must take the issue seriously if we want to reach our reduction targets and tackle the climate catastrophe.”
Measuring emissions in war and peace
The Left’s amendment was voted down at a meeting of the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety in Strasbourg. But the context of the vote calls into question the credibility of the parties that opposed it. The meeting had been opened by Ruslan Strilets, Ukraine’s Minister of Environmental Protection and Natural Resources, who presented data on the extent of the environmental damage caused by Russia’s invasion; this included one key figure: 31 million tonnes of CO2e of emissions.
After announcing his COP27 plans to launch a global platform for assessing environmental damage from conflicts, he was met with support and solidarity from the MEPs. Yet those same MEPs had failed to grasp the connection between the carbon footprint of Russia’s war, and wider need to document military emissions, both in war and peacetime. As Waitz notes: “Climate security should be an integral part of security and defence policies. In order to fight the climate crisis, all sectors, including the military, must contribute to emission reduction targets. To achieve this, military emissions must be reported transparently so we can develop strategies to limit them.”
Renew Europe, formed in 2019 from the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe, lists combatting climate change as a key priority on its website. Unfortunately, the group didn’t respond to our request for a quote for this piece, but a recent press release claimed that it is ‘highly committed to keep[ing] the objectives of the Paris agreement within reach… We can only avoid a total climate disruption if all parties work together.’ It goes on: ‘Given its global leadership on climate policy, Renew Europe calls for Europe and its institutions to pursue their role with equal ambition.’
In light of this stated ambition, it’s disappointing to see Renew oppose progress on EU military emissions reporting, and an opportunity to help fulfil the EU’s obligations as a signatory of the Paris Agreement. Defending their amendment, Left MEP Mick Wallace said: “All we are doing is asking for basic information. We are not looking for military strategies or classified documents – we want a general idea of what the military bootprint looks like in each country, and also how it’s changing year on year. We are currently completely overlooking the climate impact of militarisation. You’d swear there is something special about the sector that makes its emissions not matter.”
In Renew, a party apparently focused on the climate, we have a party that has not only chosen to ignore the military emissions gap, but actively vote to maintain it.
Time for leadership
EU Member States could play a leading role on military emissions reductions. A recent estimate suggests that militaries are responsible for 5.5% of global greenhouse gas emissions. As Wallace points out, “that’s more than for all of Africa and its 1.2 billion people. This is why this information is important. In an increasingly militarised world, this couldn’t be more important.”
Transparent reporting is a prerequisite for emissions reductions, and militaries cannot be excused from this any longer. As signatories to the Paris Agreement, the EU and its Member States have a responsibility to keep the 1.5°C target alive. That means addressing all sectors, as the EEAS Roadmap rightly points out.
Europe views itself as leader on climate, environment and access to information; leadership in this space means transparency on military emissions as a foundation for verifiable reduction targets that are consistent with 1.5°C. The European Parliament has a role to play here, and MEPs from across the political spectrum must ensure that next year’s COP28 resolution does include clear language on military emissions reporting.
Ellie Kinney is CEOBS’ Campaigner
- Notes that inclusion of disaggregated military emissions in UNFCCC submissions is voluntary and it is not currently possible to define reported military GHG emissions from the submitted UNFCCC data; supports introducing disaggregated compulsory reporting of military emissions to the UNFCCC; calls on the Member States to lead by example by publishing national data on the GHG emissions of their militaries and military technology industries as standard practice.
- Recalls its resolution of 7 June 2022 on the EEAS’s Climate Change and Defence Roadmap and its recital S and paragraph 18; stresses that all sectors must contribute to the reduction of emissions, including the defence sector; underlines the need for the defence sector to adapt to climate change in order to achieve the Union’s climate neutrality objectives while maintaining operational effectiveness; calls in this respect on Member States to introduce disaggregated mandatory reporting of emissions by the defence sector to the UNFCCC.