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Saturday, December 3, 2022

It’s time to defuse the military carbon bomb. environment

The annual United Nations climate talks, known as the Conference of the Parties (COP), have traditionally promised much but delivered little. This year’s COP27 was no different, with most observers noting that it also went back on commitments made at COP26 in Glasgow.

What was less noticed was that the summit faced a major additional hurdle in 2022. This year, the climate crisis was overshadowed by the war in Ukraine, which has been a foreign policy priority of the United States and the European Union since the beginning of Russia’s invasion. in February.

The difference between how the world’s richest countries have responded to the Ukraine war and the carbon war on our entire planet is undoubtedly stark.

Since the beginning of Russia’s invasion, the US and its NATO allies have provided Ukraine with more than $25 billion in military aid, welcomed nearly seven million refugees, and dealt severe economic shocks due to increased energy prices due to the war. willingly tolerated.

Despite a global recession looming on the horizon, these countries did not hesitate to increase their military spending. Germany allocated 100 billion euros ($104bn) out of its 2022 budget for the armed forces, for example, and the US House of Representatives approved a record $840bn military spending.

Yet at COP27, those same richest nations were not even able to deliver the $100bn in climate finance that was promised in 2009 to the world’s most climate-sensitive countries. A recent report co-published by the Transnational Institute, an organization I work for, found that the richest countries spent $9.45 trillion on their militaries between 2013 and 2021, compared to an estimated $234bn on climate finance – In other words, they’ve spent 30 times as much on the military as climate finance.

After years of pressure, at COP27, nations finally agreed to create a loss and damage mechanism to provide money to poorer countries suffering from severe climate impacts, but it remains just an empty pitcher so far. The accelerated arms race that has emerged since the Russian invasion and rising US-China tensions indicate that filling that pot will not be a priority for most wealthy countries in the near future.

These spending choices matter not just because they are diverting resources from urgently needed climate action, but also because every dollar spent on the military is making the climate crisis worse. Most militaries consume significant amounts of fossil fuels. calculates an estimate that military emissions may be 5.5 percent global emissions. If the global army were a country, it would be the world’s fourth largest emitter, ahead of Russia.

Furthermore, much of the world’s military spending goes to the purchase of equipment and vehicles that are among the worst offenders in terms of carbon emissions. In 2022 alone, for example, 475 new F-35 fighter jets, which use 5,600 liters (1,480 gallons) of oil per hour of flight, are on order. These fuel-efficient aircraft can fly for another 30 years.

Emissions increase even more when war breaks out. At COP27 the Ukrainian government presented research showing that there had already been 33 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions in the first eight months of the war, equivalent to adding 16 million cars to the United Kingdom’s roads for two years.

US and UK military chiefs Argue They are committed to reducing military emissions, but their plans have so far been undetailed, opaque and uncoordinated. Adding solar panels to a military base is easy, but does nothing to address the main challenge, which is the consumption of fossil fuels by military jets, ships and tanks. For now, there is no alternative, green fuel that can be produced at the required scale and without triggering unacceptable social and environmental consequences, such as increased deforestation and the dispersal of indigenous peoples.

The inconvenient truth is that there is no way to ensure that our planet remains habitable in the long run while continuing to increase military spending. In the midst of an intense and brutal war in Ukraine, this fact is all too easily lost as governments are able to justify any increase in military spending to deal with new immediate “threats”.

Furthermore, the military spending of many wealthy countries is already out of proportion to any real or perceived threat. For example, NATO member states already spend 17 times more on the military than Russia. The United States spends more on its military than the next nine countries combined.

Meanwhile, the world has a short window to tackle climate change – the single greatest threat to our collective future. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says the world must cut emissions by 45 percent by 2030 to have any chance of keeping global average temperature rise to well below 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit). When every month counts, starting a rapid arms race is the worst course of action for the world’s most powerful nations. It diverts money and attention from urgent climate action, it increases emissions and it fuels conflicts at a time of increasing climate instability.

Climate change can teach us an important lesson about security. Carbon emissions do not recognize boundaries. It is not possible for any nation to protect itself from the effects of climate change by using tanks or fighter jets. Global cooperation is the only way to deal with the climate emergency. Demilitarization and peace are the best and perhaps the only way to ensure that humanity has the capacity and resilience to respond to this crisis.

Only if world leaders recognize that coming together to confront the threat of global warming is more important than any imperialist strategy or narrow economic interest can we have a chance of avoiding climate catastrophe. A secure nation ultimately depends on a secure planet.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial position of Al Jazeera.

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