Conflict: Military turns up the heat

The impact on global warming from armed forces is not on the COP26 agenda. It should be, writes Oliver Belcher

The World Today
Published 1 October 2021 2 minute READ

Oliver Belcher

Associate Professor, School of Government and International Affairs, Durham University

As with most conferences where leaders are pressed to make big commitments, the COP26 goals are open to interpretation, leave considerable wiggle-room and say more about what is left off the agenda.

Two major omissions stand out. The conference agenda is silent when it comes to the relationship between country emissions and their economic growth. And nothing is said of the connection between global warming and global warring – that is, the outsized role of militaries as climate actors.

These two omissions are not mutually exclusive. Carbon intensive militaries usually play an important role in the economic development of any country. This is especially true for three of the world’s biggest carbon polluters – the United States, China, and Russia – and most developing states.

COP26 negotiations risk overlooking both the connection between emissions and growth and the role of militaries in driving that growth, and therefore emissions.

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