To begin to plug the military emissions gap, states should put military emissions on the table at COP29. They must also commit to improving the standard, scope, frequency and transparency of their reporting. This commitment must be backed by pledges for meaningful, credible and verifiable cuts to their emissions.

1. Put military emissions on the table at COP29

The urgency of the climate crisis makes it vital that we plug the military emissions gap. Allowing militaries to continue with business as usual makes it much less likely that the world will meet its Paris target of keeping warming below 1.5°C. It will also require other sectors to make deeper cuts to accommodate their emissions.

Governments need to admit that they have a problem. Those that have begun to introduce legal Net Zero targets, like the UK and Switzerland, have realised that militaries are typically the government agency with the highest emissions. NATO has also acknowledged that it needs to reduce its emissions and should support its members to do so. Agreeing to put military emissions on the table at COP29 would help create momentum and encourage other countries to engage and share best practice. It would also bring the military into line with other highly polluting sectors.

2. Commit to improving reporting

As we have shown, it’s not just a question of obliging governments to report on their military emissions, it’s also about what they report, and how they do it. As a first step:

  • All Annex-1 countries should be obliged to provide mandatory reporting on military emissions. Data should be transparent, accessible, independently verifiable and fully disaggregated from other non-military emissions.
  • Non Annex-1 countries with high levels of military expenditure should begin voluntary annual reporting on their military emissions.

The Greenhouse Gas Protocol’s system of scope 1, 2 and 3 reporting should be used to inform how militaries track and report their emissions. An equivalent approach would see Scope 1 covering direct emissions from their owned or controlled sources. Scope 2 covering indirect emissions from the generation of purchased electricity, steam, heating and cooling, while an equivalent to Scope 3 would include all other indirect emissions, such as procurement supply chains and military conduct during conflicts.

To ensure a level global playing field, the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change should urgently update its criteria for the reporting of military emissions.

3. Pledge military emissions cuts – now

Militaries have enjoyed emissions exceptionalism for so long that developing and implementing emissions accounting will not happen overnight. This makes it all the more important that governments pledge cuts now in order to focus attention on policies that can reduce emissions and accelerate change.

However, what we do not need is military-grade greenwash. To be credible, and meaningful, pledges must:

  • Set clear GHG emission reduction targets for the military that are consistent with the 1.5°C target specified by the 2015 Paris Agreement;
  • Commit to GHG emission reporting mechanisms that are robust, comparable and transparent, are based on the GHG protocol, and which are independently verified;
  • Set clear targets for the military to conserve energy, reduce reliance on fossil fuels and switch to environmentally responsible renewable energy;
  • Contain clear reduction targets for the military technology industry;
  • Prioritise GHG reduction initiatives at source and not rely on schemes to offset GHG emissions;
  • Publish GHG reduction policies, strategies and action plans, with annual follow-up reporting on performance;
  • Address how reducing military expenditure and deployments, and altering military postures can reduce emissions;
  • Commit to incorporating climate and environmental assessments in decision-making for all procurement, activities and missions;
  • Highlight the relationship between climate change and environmental degradation, and demonstrate a commitment to reducing the overall environmental impact of all military activities and missions;
  • Commit to optimising the management of military lands to improve carbon sequestration and biodiversity;
  • Commit to increase climate and environmental training for decision makers, including on how militaries can mitigate climate change and environmental degradation;
  • Demonstrate leadership, openness and a willingness to collaborate and exchange information on good practice with non-military stakeholders;
  • Commit to allocating the appropriate resources to ensure all climate and environmental protection policies can be fully implemented.