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Military Emissions Dilemma: Navigating Environmental Responsibility Amid National Security Concerns

Military Emissions - an army holding a globe

Scientists and environmental groups are increasing pressure on the United Nations to force military forces worldwide to disclose all their emissions and end exemptions, allowing some of their climate pollution to go unrecorded.

One of the world's largest fuel consumers, the military accounts for 5.5% of global greenhouse gas emissions. However, they are not bound by international climate agreements to report or reduce their carbon emissions, and the data published by some militaries is considered inaccurate or incomplete.

This is because overseas military emissions, from aeroplanes to ships to military exercises, were excluded from the 1997 Kyoto Protocol on reducing greenhouse gases and excluded again from the 2015 Paris Agreement because data on energy use by military forces could threaten national security.

Environmental groups and academics are pushing for more comprehensive and transparent reporting of military emissions using research, letter campaigns and conferences in their lobbying efforts.

Several groups such as Tipping Point North South, The Conflict and Environment Observatory, and academics from UK universities such as Lancaster, Oxford, and Queen Mary call for all military emissions to be included in a comprehensive global carbon accounting. However, there is currently no sign of a concrete response to this lobbying effort within this year. The UN stated that there are no concrete plans to change guidelines for reporting military emissions, but the issue could be discussed at future meetings, including at the Summit28 in Dubai. Countries such as New Zealand, the United Kingdom and Germany are exploring ways to report their military emissions more accurately.

Nonetheless, there are signs that some militaries are preparing for changes in their reporting requirements in the coming years, while others are working to reduce their climate impact. NATO, a Western security alliance with 31 member countries, has created a methodology for its members to report their military emissions. Drones have also helped reduce emissions, as this technology is more energy-efficient than manned aircraft.

However, some experts argue that a focus on military emissions could distract governments from regional security issues and slow discussions in the short term. Some militaries argue that publishing details about their oil use will reveal information about their operations overseas. In the meantime, global military emissions will remain elusive, and some experts argue that this gives the military an unfair advantage regarding climate change responsibility.



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