Militarism and Carbon Emissions

“One of the biggest culprits for Canada’s failure to decarbonize is costly, carbon intensive militarism. The Department of National Defence (DND) including the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) consumes the most fossil fuel and is the largest emitter of GHGs. Carbon emissions from the military account for over 61% of all emissions by the federal government. Yet, military emission reductions are absent from Canada’s reports on Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) and the federal climate plans.” (Source: The Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) Canada)

Pax Christi Toronto is greatly concerned about all sources which increase the amount of carbon emission in the atmosphere. Very grave sources of carbon emissions are the Canadian Department of National Defense and all military activity. However, military pollution is not considered in deliberations to decrease Greenhouse Gases despite the Canadian government’s statement that everything will be looked at through the lens of Climate.

The issue of militarism and carbon emissions was largely absent at COP 26, although there were some workshops and webinars focusing on the subject. There was more attention given to the issue in the streets of Glasgow during COP 26, with youth and others marching and giving voice to their distress at the crucial omission. World Beyond War, according to an article written by Brent Patterson of Peace Brigades International, made the call at COP 26 for governments to stop excluding military pollution from climate agreements. [An historical note: author, Jonathon Cook writes of how, following the insistence of the U.S. Government to be exempted from reporting and reducing military emissions at the Kyoto Summit 24 years ago, all states insisted likewise. At the Paris Summit in 2015, militaries lost their automatic exemption, but they were not obligated to cut their emissions, and reporting on those emissions was left to the discretion of individual states.]

A fighter jet carries and consumes approximately 15,000 lbs of fuel to fly one long range flight. That’s equivalent to 8,500 litres or 2,300 gallons. By contrast, a typical passenger vehicle consumes 1,800 litres of fuel per year. How many trees will the federal government have to plant to offset the greenhouse gases from warplanes? (Source: WILPF)

In response to this history, the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom Canada (WILPF), in preparing for COP 26, researched and prepared a flyer which says that “one of the biggest culprits for Canada’s failure to decarbonize is costly, carbon-intensive militarism.

WILPF further states that Canada’s Department of National Defence (DND) which includes the Canadian Armed Forces, consumes the most fossil fuel and is the largest emitter of Greenhouse Gases of all government departments and agencies. Carbon emissions from the military account for over 61% of all emissions by the federal government…..The military’s energy mix is predominantly comprised of fossil fuels, aviation fuel, diesel fuel, natural gas, gasoline and heavy fuel oil. Over 70% of the energy use is for DND’s fleet (mostly military vehicles) and 30% is for its infrastructure (buildings and bases). DND spends over $500 million annually for petroleum products. Given Pax Christi’s membership in the No Fighter Jets Coalition, we oppose the planned purchase of 88 new Fighter Jets. It is noteworthy that military vehicles like fighter jets, tanks and warships are energy inefficient, have long life cycles and have locked-in energy platforms that cannot be readily replaced by renewable energy. These facts have been gathered by a variety of groups doing research on these vehicles. All of the vehicles are very harmful to the climate, the natural environment and people.

An article in the Ottawa Citizen (referred to by Brent Patterson) cites a study from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives which gives some different data but still points to an alarming degree of carbon emissions (45% of all the Federal Government’s Greenhouse Gases) from National Defense operations. A spokesperson from DND reports planned reductions in Greenhouse Gas emissions by 2030, but one wonders how much this can be trusted, given the lack of transparency to date.

A report by the Watershed Sentinel sheds further light on the Military’s “Carbon Footprint”

When we look at budgets, we can be equally dismayed by the discrepancy between the budgets of National Defense spending, and the spending of the Department of Environment and Climate Change.

In 2020, according to the Public Accounts of Canada, the annual budget for DND was $27 billion. DND’s budget accounts for 30% of all federal departmental spending. By contrast, the budget for the Department of Environment and Climate Change was only $1.9 billion.” (Source: WILPF)

Shockingly, under the government’s current defense policy, over $553 billion will be spent on the military over the next 20 years to maintain “high-end warfighting”. In contrast, the investment for the Pan- Canadian Framework for Clean Growth and Climate Change is only $132 billion over 11 years.

Briefly, it is also critical to be aware of the role of the Canadian military in Climate-related operations. Here in Canada, military are involved in violent means of controlling and resisting Indigenous peoples defending their lands from harmful extraction and transportation of oil. Also, Fighter Jets are most frequently based on Indigenous lands, and testing is very frequently done over Indigenous lands, causing grave harm to the people, the land and the animals.

Any actions PCT can take to address these very distressing realities is essential. Our commitment to nonviolence calls us to active nonviolent ways of bringing about a drastic change from a culture of militarism for the sake of the Earth and the Climate. At this time, our support of the No Fighter Jets Campaign is very important. Withdrawal from the plan to purchase the Jets would free up monies for Climate and environmental preservation and protection, Indigenous Rights and Reconciliation, housing, healthcare or other priorities