Europe’s military sectors have an annual carbon footprint equivalent to emissions from at least 14 million cars, a study published today by the Left group in the European Parliament has found. 

The survey, based on conservative estimates from 2019, highlights wide gaps in military emissions’ reporting by EU member states. Mitigation measures – when they exist – lack rigour or oversight. Europe’s military sectors operate under a state of exemption, the report argues. 

The study, jointly authored by the Conflict and Environment Observatory and Scientists for Global Responsibility finds that the European Green Deal “completely and purposely” ignored everything to do with the climate impact of militarisation, arguing that “demilitarisation needs to be part of any credible Green Deal.” 

The research also highlights that Europe hosts eight of the world’s top 30 largest corporations by military sales; identifies France’s army as contributing to a third of the total carbon footprint of the EU’s militaries; and estimates that Poland’s military technology industry has the highest greenhouse gas emissions.

Denouncing the EU narrative that entrenches exceptionalism around the military and arms industry, MEP Idoia Villanueva (Podemos, Spain) has called on the Commission to rethink its defence policy: 

“This study shows that the fight against climate change and the EU’s military spending are incompatible. While the Commission raises the flag of the European Green Deal, many activities that harm the environment and hinder our climate action are kept hidden.

“This study places a welcome spotlight on the lack of transparency of the military-industrial complex. National security can no longer be used as an excuse to hide data about the effects of the military industry on the environment.

“Beyond greenwashing military policy, we need to rethink the European Union’s defence policy towards arms control and disarmament, putting human security at its centre.” 

World leaders are not making the climate emergency a priority as much as they are committed to militarism and proliferation, according to João Ferreira (PCP, Portugal): 

“The history of the 20th century has shown us the terrible environmental consequences of war. These consequences still continue with us and will remain for years to come for both people and ecosystems. 

“The capitalist system, the unsustainable relationship it establishes between man and nature, is on the basis for the degradation of the environment, the contamination of soils, water resources and the atmosphere, the loss in biodiversity, the destruction of forests and the plundering of natural resources. War is a central expression of this fundamental relationship between capitalism and the destruction of life – of man and nature.

“This study will serve as a tool to combat the military-industrial complex – its preying of the planet’s resources – and to denounce the environmental consequences of the use, for example, of aircraft carriers, submarines, tanks and other war vehicles, or of bombings that devastate, sometimes for a long time, entire ecosystems. It also contributes to denouncing the massive investment in attack weapons that should be directed towards the defence of peoples and nature.

“EU leaders are not prioritising the defence of peace, from how the EU’s long-term budget finances war, the growing assumption of the EU as the European pillar of NATO and the latter’s demand to increase military spending to 2% of GDP.

“The anti-imperialist struggle and the struggle for peace are increasingly becoming an environmental and climate emergency. Every cent spent on war will have harsh consequences for humanity and nature,” Ferreira concluded.