Under the United Nations Paris climate deal reached over the weekend, the United States military and the armed forces of other countries will not receive automatic exemptions from the obligations to cut emissions going forward.
In 1999, the United States received an exemption from the requirement to fully report or act on the greenhouse gas emissions of its armed forces.
However, under the new Paris climate agreement, while countries are not obligated to reduce the greenhouse emissions from their militaries, they will no longer receive automatic exemptions from the requirements.
Stephen Kretzmann, the director of Oil Change International, told reporters that, “If we’re going to win on climate we have to make sure we are counting carbon completely, not exempting different things like military emissions because it is politically inconvenient to count them. The atmosphere certainly counts the carbon from the military, therefore we must as well.”
In international circles, the military of the United States is widely believed to be the world’s largest institutional consumer of oil. But, since its reporting requirements are exempt, it has been hard to show.
The United States military requested the original emissions-reporting exemption on national security grounds. And, while it does not appear that the Obama administration is looking to the military to cut its emissions before 2030, future presidents could do so.
Steven Groves, a senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation, stated that, “Let’s face it, vast swathes of our military are big carbon emitters – tanks, Jeeps, humvees, jet planes – and of course much of our navy is not nuclear-powered, so [the Paris agreement] could be used as a trojan horse.”
Groves further added that, “This might be a good opportunity for people concerned with national security to go to congress and get some type of legislative exemption in the same way as was done during the Kyoto time period.”