Apache Longbow helicopter on a training sortie

The military needs to be included in climate agreements but “greening” the military is not enough

As the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) is in full swing in Glasgow, pressure is mounting for military pollution to be included in climate agreements.

While the failure of recognising militaries as greenhouse gas emitters requires urgent rectification, “greening the military“ will not be enough to address and mitigate the ecological crisis.

The military-industrial complex has grave impacts on the environment

The military-industrial complex is one of the greatest contributors to the climate crisis and environmental destruction. If it were a country, the United States military’s emissions alone would make it the world’s 55th largest contributor.

But it’s not only energy consumption used for using and moving troops and weapons that have devastating impacts on the climate. The impact goes far beyond it. The entire lifecycle of weapons’ production, testing, and use, from small arms to explosive or nuclear weapons, have huge repercussions for biodiversity, soil, groundwater, and air. The ever-increasing military expenditure, skyrocketing in 2020 to almost $2 trillion, diverts crucial resources for ecological regeneration and climate change mitigation, food security, housing, and healthcare.

However, most governments refuse to connect the dots between military activity and environmental impacts. “The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change obliges signatories to publish annual GHG emissions, but military emissions reporting is voluntary and often not included,” observes the Conflict and Environment Observatory (CEOBS) in its call for action. Similarly, the UN General Assembly First Committee on Disarmament and International that just recently concluded its annual five-week session, has not yet shown any signs of meaningfully integrating ecological considerations into its work on disarmament and arms control.

Pressure is mounting

The 6 November 2021 was the annual International Day for the Preventing the Exploitation of the Environment in War and Armed Conflict.  Along with a flurry of activities at the margins of COP26, there is real momentum building around calls for accountability of militaries’ environmental impacts.

WILPF joined CEOBS’ call for action urging parties to the 2015 Paris Agreement to commit to reducing their militaries’ greenhouse gas emissions. The call is endorsed by 215 organisations, and counting. Similarly, a petition by World Beyond War has gathered over 26,500 signatures, calling for an end to the exclusion of military pollution in climate agreements.

It appears that the message has already reached crucial stakeholders. For example, Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg of the military alliance North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) asserts in an interview during COP26 that “there is no way to reach net zero without also including emissions from the military.”

The risks of greenwashing the military

WILPF welcomes that the military’s environmental impacts are increasingly brought out of the shadows, and into the spotlight. There are, however, significant risks of governments, and military alliances such as NATO, legitimising their continued existence as violent, patriarchal, and oppressive institutions by following the latest trend of going green.

It is reasonable to expect that most militaries would merely attempt to greenwash their activities, instead of meaningfully reducing their impact. For example, achieving “net zero” as touted by many governments, corporations, and NATO as the solution to the climate crisis, is, in fact, exceptionally misguided, perpetuating the belief that technology and a few additional tree plantations will solve this crisis.

“Net zero” is not the answer to the ecological crisis. Nor is the answer for the US military to use solar panels or biodegradable bullets to power its death machinery, for the British army to explore alternative fuels, or for Spain to plant trees on military land to capture carbon.

In the same way that we have seen the military-industrial complex co-opt the Women, Peace, and Security agenda, such as NATO priding itself on championing gender equality and diversity whilst maintaining a patriarchal, militarised approach to the world, it is likely the same actors will now co-opt sincere calls and proposed solutions to the climate crisis to maintain the status quo.

We at WILPF reiterate our view that it is not enough to green the military-industrial complex. Its raison d’être is based upon violence, oppression, and extraction, and as long as these institutions exist, the earth will not be able to regenerate and heal. Demilitarisation, disarmament, decolonisation, and decarbonisation are needed now!

Melissa Torres

VICE-PRESIDENT

Prior to being elected Vice-President, Melissa Torres was the WILPF US International Board Member from 2015 to 2018. Melissa joined WILPF in 2011 when she was selected as a Delegate to the Commission on the Status of Women as part of the WILPF US’ Practicum in Advocacy Programme at the United Nations, which she later led. She holds a PhD in Social Work and is a professor and Global Health Scholar at Baylor College of Medicine and research lead at BCM Anti-Human Trafficking Program. Of Mexican descent and a native of the US/Mexico border, Melissa is mostly concerned with the protection of displaced Latinxs in the Americas. Her work includes training, research, and service provision with the American Red Cross, the National Human Trafficking Training and Technical Assistance Centre, and refugee resettlement programs in the U.S. Some of her goals as Vice-President are to highlight intersectionality and increase diversity by fostering inclusive spaces for mentorship and leadership. She also contributes to WILPF’s emerging work on the topic of displacement and migration.

Jamila Afghani

VICE-PRESIDENT

Jamila Afghani is the President of WILPF Afghanistan which she started in 2015. She is also an active member and founder of several organisations including the Noor Educational and Capacity Development Organisation (NECDO). Elected in 2018 as South Asia Regional Representative to WILPF’s International Board, WILPF benefits from Jamila’s work experience in education, migration, gender, including gender-based violence and democratic governance in post-conflict and transitional countries.

Sylvie Jacqueline Ndongmo

PRESIDENT

Sylvie Jacqueline NDONGMO is a human rights and peace leader with over 27 years experience including ten within WILPF. She has a multi-disciplinary background with a track record of multiple socio-economic development projects implemented to improve policies, practices and peace-oriented actions. Sylvie is the founder of WILPF Cameroon and was the Section’s president until 2022. She co-coordinated the African Working Group before her election as Africa Representative to WILPF’s International Board in 2018. A teacher by profession and an African Union Trainer in peace support operations, Sylvie has extensive experience advocating for the political and social rights of women in Africa and worldwide.

WILPF Afghanistan

In response to the takeover of Afghanistan by the Taliban and its targeted attacks on civil society members, WILPF Afghanistan issued several statements calling on the international community to stand in solidarity with Afghan people and ensure that their rights be upheld, including access to aid. The Section also published 100 Untold Stories of War and Peace, a compilation of true stories that highlight the effects of war and militarisation on the region. 

IPB Congress Barcelona

WILPF Germany (+Young WILPF network), WILPF Spain and MENA Regional Representative

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Demilitarisation

WILPF uses feminist analysis to argue that militarisation is a counter-productive and ill-conceived response to establishing security in the world. The more society becomes militarised, the more violence and injustice are likely to grow locally and worldwide.

Sixteen states are believed to have supplied weapons to Afghanistan from 2001 to 2020 with the US supplying 74 % of weapons, followed by Russia. Much of this equipment was left behind by the US military and is being used to inflate Taliban’s arsenal. WILPF is calling for better oversight on arms movement, for compensating affected Afghan people and for an end to all militarised systems.

Militarised masculinity

Mobilising men and boys around feminist peace has been one way of deconstructing and redefining masculinities. WILPF shares a feminist analysis on the links between militarism, masculinities, peace and security. We explore opportunities for strengthening activists’ action to build equal partnerships among women and men for gender equality.

WILPF has been working on challenging the prevailing notion of masculinity based on men’s physical and social superiority to, and dominance of, women in Afghanistan. It recognizes that these notions are not representative of all Afghan men, contrary to the publicly prevailing notion.

Feminist peace​

In WILPF’s view, any process towards establishing peace that has not been partly designed by women remains deficient. Beyond bringing perspectives that encapsulate the views of half of the society and unlike the men only designed processes, women’s true and meaningful participation allows the situation to improve.

In Afghanistan, WILPF has been demanding that women occupy the front seats at the negotiating tables. The experience of the past 20 has shown that women’s presence produces more sustainable solutions when they are empowered and enabled to play a role.

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