By: Renee Juliene Karunungan

There is growing concern over whether developed countries will meet their pledges to finance the historic pact agreed in Paris in 2015 on climate change, with no concrete plans on how to do so, according to critics at current United Nations-sponsored climate negotiations in Marrakech, Morocco.

Instead, a women’s protest group said on Nov. 7 at the 22nd Conference of Parties in Marrakech, the money is going to military expenditure. The current conference, which opened on Nov. 7, runs through Nov. 18 and focuses on finance and implementation of the Paris agreement, which committed 174 countries to begin adopting stringent measures into their legal systems and to “pursue efforts to” limit the temperature increase to 1.5 °C sometime between 2030 and 2050, and to hold the rise to zero net emissions during the second half of the 21st century.

“We are hearing governments repeatedly say that they don’t have the money to invest in climate change and to make contributions to the Green Climate Fund but we know that’s not true,” said Kate Lappin, Regional Coordinator of the Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law, and Development (APWLD)

However, Lappin said, the developed countries are on a path to increase military expenditure while ignoring their obligations on climate change. For instance, if emissions by the military alone were included in discussions over climate change, the United States, with the world’s largest defense establishment, would rank 34th in the world in terms of emissions, a women’s protest group said on Nov. 7 at the United Nations-sponsored 22nd Conference of Parties in Marrakech, Morocco.

“Military emissions are a driver of climate change yet states often omit them from emissions reporting,” said the Women and Gender Constituency in their statement, which claimed that the US military is the world’s largest institutional consumer of crude oil, using more than 100 billion barrels a year.

In 1997, the US argued for the exemption of military emissions from the Kyoto protocol for security reasons though the country later failed to ratify the agreement. According to the women’s protest group, many of the world’s wars are fought to protect corporate interests in fossil fuels, so the issue of extraterritorial obligations of states is also an issue of climate justice. They also note that many conflicts and wars are fueled by the fossil fuel and other extractive industries.

During the 2009 conference 15 in Copenhagen, developed countries pledged US$100 billion a year for climate finance by 2020. However, although the funds were to be made available this year, there is little sign that their obligations will be met. It was only in Paris last year where developed countries were asked for a concrete roadmap to the $100 billion. These funds are expected to be allocated equally between mitigation and adaptation.

“That money currently spent by governments in terms of military spending must be redirected towards the climate spending we need,” said Lappin. “This money would go a long way in addressing the serious issues of climate change and its disproportionate impact on women, particularly in frontline communities in the economic South and North. It would also reverse some of the direct and indirect effects of fossil fuel and other extractive-fueled conflict and wars,” the Women and Gender Constituency said.

Climate finance has been crucial in the UN climate negotiations. While countries continue to argue over climate finance, US$100 billion is not enough to answer climate change mitigation and adaptation for developing countries. A report by Oxfam says that developing countries will need an additional US$270 billion per year for adaptation alone.

 “We know that the protection of those conflicts over resources in Iraq, Afghanistan are clearly about the extractive industry,” Lappin said. She also emphasized about other links between militarism and climate change aside from emissions, such as protection of the fossil fuel industry.

“In the Philippines, there is a division in the military to defend extractive industries and private corporations,” she said. “So the state is spending money on defending extractive industries. It’s not just in the Philippines but also in the Asia Pacific region like Indonesia.

Shifting finance from militarism

According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), in 2015 global military expenditure reached US$1.6 trillion. Meanwhile, climate financing continues to be a problem inside the UN climate negotiations.

“This [US$100 billion] would go a long way in addressing the serious issues of climate change and its disproportionate impact on women, particularly in frontline communities in the economic South and North. It would also reverse some of the direct and indirect effects of fossil fuel and other extractivist-fueled conflict and wars,” the women’s advocacy group said.

Renee Juliene Kurunungan is a Philippines-based climate activist.  She is attending the Marrakech conference as an observer.