Tackling the climate crisis will require that we understand and address military emissions during conflicts, as well as in peacetime.
A new framework from CEOBS sets out our expectations for how militaries should report their greenhouse gas emissions, ahead of an expected announcement from NATO at its Summit on 28-30th June.
The military emissions reporting gap
At COP26, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said, “there is no way to reach net zero without also including emissions from the military”. Yet, there is currently no formal obligation for any state to report its military emissions to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) – this is the military emissions gap. Because militaries have been historically excluded from emissions reduction goals, their ability to track their emissions lags behind other sectors. Without data on the current state of their emissions, militaries are unable to define realistic goals for emissions reductions.
The data that we do have indicates that military emissions are a problem. Militaries are huge energy users whose emissions are making a significant contribution to the climate crisis. For example, in 2018 US military’s emissions were greater than those of 53 countries combined, while the UK Ministry of Defence accounts for at least 50% of central government’s emissions. Both the US Army and UK MoD have announced commitments to reduce their military emissions, but without the means to fully track and report reductions, it will not be possible to monitor progress.
Not just fuel and heating, but supply chains and warfighting too
Alongside fuel use, CEOBS’ framework proposes categories that cover the indirect emissions that can result from conflicts themselves, such as landscape fires and infrastructure damage, reconstruction and the displacement of people. The framework also highlights the need to account for the emissions from the military’s large and complex supply chains, which are likely to far exceed a military’s direct emissions. It is only through these additions that militaries can gather accurate data on the true scale of their contribution to the climate crisis.
In 2021, NATO announced that it was developing a methodology to help its members report their GHG emissions. It is vital that this methodology, and any being developed independently by national governments, is transparent and credible. Our framework also explores the need for emissions reporting, its functions and components, as well as the military sources that emissions reporting should cover.
Getting military emissions on the agenda of the UNFCCC
The framework complements a report recently published by Tipping Point North South and Perspectives Climate Group ‘Military and Conflict related emissions: Kyoto to Glasgow and beyond’, which calls for military emissions to play a role in the UNFCCC’s Global Stocktake, due to be finalised by COP28 in 2023. Both the report and the framework underline the need for military GHG emissions to be urgently addressed by the UNFCCC.
“Military and conflict emissions matter for national climate change commitments,” said Linsey Cottrell, CEOBS’ Environmental Policy Officer, and author of the report. “However, it is imperative that we gain a full understanding of their scale. The most effective way to do that is through ensuring we have a transparent and comprehensive reporting framework that is agreed within the framework of the UNFCCC.”
Our aim is for the framework to inform governments, the military supply chain, civil society organisations and the public. Transparent and accessible reporting enables military emissions to be scrutinised, to monitor progress and highlight areas for improvement. It is vital that methodologies being developed by NATO and independently by governments allow militaries to monitor the true extent of their emissions. The end goal should be a common international approach to reporting, under the framework of the UNFCCC, and which is transparent and drives much needed action.
Ellie Kinney is CEOBS’ campaigner on military emissions. You can read the full framework report here.