Climate & The Military: How Global Militarization Is Costing Us The Earth

New Reports Show the Extent of Military Pollution on our Planet

Written by Alessandra Fontanella, Assistant Coordinator (IPB)

Recent data from reports published by Scientists for Global Responsibility (SGR)and the Conflict and Environment Observatory (CEOBS), as well as from the Transnational Institute (TNI), Stop Wapenhandel, and Tipping Point North South (TPNS) demonstrate the overwhelmingly negative impact of global military activities on our climate.

The 2022 SGR report estimates that the world’s militaries contribute to 5.5 per cent of global greenhouse gas  (GHG) emissions. It also finds that if the world’s militaries were a country, it would have the 4th largest national carbon footprint in the world. To illustrate these findings further, if global militaries were combined they would be the world’s 29th top oil consumer, ahead of Venezuela and Poland.  SGR and CEOBS estimate the annual military carbon footprint of the US at 205 million tonnes, and 11 million tonnes for the UK.

Despite the new methodology that has enabled scientists to approximate the level of military carbon pollution, their estimations are limited. A lack of clear and consistent reporting of data by governments has made it difficult to provide accurate estimations of military greenhouse gas emissions – under the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, governments are not obligated to report their emissions data to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC). Further, collaborative research by between CEOBS and Concrete Impacts: militaryemissions.org shows no yearly improvements on voluntary reporting by governments. It is also difficult for researchers to measure emissions from damage to buildings, eco-systems and reconstructions efforts post-conflict leading to significant data gaps.

Despite these limitations, the existing data is alarming and highlights the need for dialogue between governments, international organisations and civil society to work towards a global plan. Civil society can play a crucial role in advocating for the redirection of finance from the military towards funding climate change. The richest countries (annex II in the UN Climate Talks) have a military expenditure 30 times greater than what they allocate to climate finance for vulnerable countries and have failed to meet their obligation of providing $100bn a year to the most climate-vulnerable countries in the world. The redistribution of just one year’s military spending by the top 10 military countries towards climate finance would provide 15 years  (US $100bn) of the promised funding.

Moreover, a thorough set of data protocols should be put in place to enhance transparency and pave the way for more comprehensive and accurate data on global military emissions, as suggested by SGR. We must demand greater transparency and accountability from governments, and promote the dissemination of information about military emissions to increase public attention on governments’ military spending and activities.  Collective action in the peace and climate movements  is necessary to bring about a  reduction of military carbon emissions, and the redirection spending in this sector towards mitigative action for our climate.

The best way to reduce military pollution on our planet is to reduce war. The International Peace Bureau is committed to promoting positive peace and justice, below we outline several recent actions that IPB has taken:

  • IPB’s year round campaign – Global Campaign on Military Spending (GCOMS) raises awareness of excessive military spending and aims to reduce global military expenditures.
  • IPB Council member Tyson Smith Berry Jr. hosted the panel “Climate Change & Common Security: challenges and solutions in Africa and the world at large” at the conference : From Conflict to Beloved Communities – A Series of International Gatherings on Peace, Justice and Non-Violence on November 8 in Juba, South Sudan.
  • For the COP 27 which recently took place in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, the IPB alongside the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) and World BEYOND War (WBW)sent two open letters addressed to the UNFCC and Green Climate.
  • Visit IPB’s Youtube Channel to watch our broadcast updates from COP27 – focused on the events and activists that brought together the themes of peace and climate.

IPB Christmas Peace Appeal

IPB is calling for a ceasefire in Ukraine for Christmas 2022/2023, from the 25 December to the 7 January, as a sign of our shared humanity, reconciliation and peace.

To be a part of our appeal for peace and negotiations, please sign our petition on the Christmas appeal website.

The Christmas Peace Appeal is available in seven different languages available on the website, where you can also learn about the history of the 1914 Christmas Truce. If your language is not covered by our translations and you would like us to add it to our website, send a translation to: ipb@info-office.berlin.

IPB has put together a collection of proposals and possibilities for a ceasefire and resolution to the conflicts between Russia and Ukraine. The document is available here.

Theo V. S. Ferreira

Theo Valois Souza Ferreira holds a Bachelor’s degree in International Relations from the Universidade Federal de Uberlândia (UFU-Brazil), and a Master’s degree in International Relations and European Studies from the Universidade de Évora (Portugal), with intern stays at the Instituto de la Paz y los Conflictos (UGR-Granada, Spain) and at the Department of Peace and Conflict Research of Uppsala Universitet (Sweden). Planning to start a Ph.D. in the second half of 2023.

Continue reading “Theo V. S. Ferreira”

Alessandra Fontanella

Alessandra Fontanella joined IPB as Assistant Coordinator in September, 2022.

She is currently working towards an MA in International Cooperation at the University of Turin, Italy and is focusing her research on food insecurity and conflict.  Alessandra holds a BA in Foreign Languages and an MA in International Relations. Previously, she has worked in ethical data analysis and administration.

Conference Review: ‘From Conflict to Beloved Communities: A Series of International Gatherings on Peace, Justice and Nonviolence’ in Juba, South Sudan

Tyson in Juba, South Sudan

From 03-21 November, the Province of the Episcopal Church of South Sudan in conjunction with the Organization for Nonviolence and Development hosted the conference “From Conflict to Beloved Communities: A Series of International Gatherings on Peace, Justice and Nonviolence.”

IPB council member and Executive Director of 4kids International, Tyson Smith Berry Jr., hosted IPB Day at the conference on 08 November. The program, titled “Climate Change & Common Security: challenges and solutions in Africa and the world at large,” included various seminars and workshops.

Read Tyson’s report here:

Click here to learn more about IPB Day in Juba!

Matt Meyer, Secretary-General of the International Peace Research Association (IPRA), also shared afterthoughts from the events in Juba:

Sharon Dolev – Council Member

Sharon Dolev was elected as IPB Council Member in October, 2022. She is a peace and human rights activist with a focus on eradicating nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction from the Middle East through innovative policy, education, advocacy and activism. She is the founder and director of the Israeli Disarmament Movement (IDM), the Middle East Treaty Organization (METO) and Israeli representative of the 2017 Noble Peace Prize laureate International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN).

Sharon has been a social and political activist for over 35 years. These include serving as the Director of Greenpeace in Israel, leading the organization’s peace and disarmament campaigns. She was also active in the Meretz Party, a left-wing, social-democratic, and green political party, also called the Movement for Civil Rights; Geneva Initiative; and Women in Black, a worldwide network of women committed to peace with justice and actively opposed to injustice, war, militarism and other forms of violence. In recent years, she presented a radio show called ‘According to Foreign Sources’, an outlet discussing the state of democracy in Israel.

The 5th ITUC World Congress

The 5th ITUC World Congress in Australia has celebrated the role of trade unions in peace-building, without which there can be no social justice.
Presenting the Freedom Report 2022: Unions Building Peace to the delegates, ITUC General Secretary Sharan Burrow said: “Some two billion people live in conflict-affected countries, with 56 state-based conflicts in the world today.

“International humanitarian trade union solidarity, such as the major efforts to support workers in Ukraine, Myanmar and elsewhere, is part of a broader framework of trade union efforts to build and sustain peace and to avoid conflicts and rebuild in their aftermath. The world must learn from this example.

“If world leaders can come together to look at addressing the threats from climate change, then it should also invest in global dialogue on measures to prevent conflict, to end existing conflicts and to rebuild in the aftermath of war in a just and sustainable way.

“There are many examples of trade union action for peace, justice and democracy. We take pride in these achievements and the inspiration we draw from them will help unions everywhere plan and campaign for fundamental freedoms, democracy and peace.”

The report includes case studies from:
• In Colombia, unions have been at the forefront of decades of struggle for peace and social justice.
• In Northern Ireland, the trade union movement has long been a motor for peace and overcoming division and sectarianism.
• In Myanmar, the unions continue their longstanding peace and democracy struggle in the most difficult and dangerous circumstances under a ruthless military dictatorship.
• In Tunisia, the UGTT and others were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for their work to build a post-dictatorship country with a new constitution. A commitment that remains just as strong as the country faces new challenges.

Open Letter Launch on military spending and climate finance

In a collaboration between the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) , World BEYOND War (WBW), and the International Peace Bureau (IPB), we come to present you two Open Letters written especifically for the occasion of the COP27 happening in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egipt from the 6th to the 18th of November.

The first letter is addressed as an Appeal to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Chang (UNFCCC) to Study Climate Impacts of Military Emissions and Military Spending for Climate Financing. The second one, as a Global Appeal to Reduce Military Spending and Re-Allocate to Climate Financing, is addressed to Yannick Glemarec, Executive Director of the Green Climate Fund.

“It is inconceivable that while millions of people are waiting for vaccines, medicines or food to save their lives, the richest countries continue to prioritize their resources in armaments at the expense of people’s well-being, climate, health and equitable recovery.”

We appeal to the UNFCCC and the IPCC to do a special report and assessment of the climate impacts of war and the military. Global military spending has risen to over $2.1 trillion USD. We urge the UNFCCC to call on member states to cut military spending for climate financing.

In 2021, global military spending rose to $2.1 trillion (USD), the highest ever in history. This is 20 times more than the $100 billion pledged for climate finance, a target that Western countries failed to meet. 

The military is the largest consumer of fossil fuels and biggest carbon emitter in the governments of state parties. Countries must demilitarize to decarbonize.

Military emissions and expenditures are derailing progress on the Paris Agreement. Peace, disarmament and demilitarisation are vital to mitigation, transformational adaptation, and climate justice. We also appeal to the Green Climate Fund to study the reduction and re-allocation of military spending for climate financing facilities.