Policy brief draft
Title: Toward Open Military Carbon Accounting Transparency / Carbon-Reducing Advance Market Procurement (TOMCAT/CRAMP)
Summary for Policymakers
- While the federal government is working toward net zero emissions in line with the 2015 Paris Agreement, the Department of Defense has been exempt from making complete inventory of emissions or reaching net zero. Estimates of military carbon emissions place it in at least the low single digits of global emissions, making its omission a key gap toward national reductions. Simultaneously, DoD leadership has repeatedly marked climate change a key national security threat and a process greatly damaging our country’s military readiness.
- To improve transparency, the DoD should do a full count of carbon emissions, and publish non-confidential inventories publicly alongside other government agencies.
- To comply with the nation’s commitments in the Paris agreement, the DoD should set its emissions on a trajectory compatible with the 1.5 degrees Celsius warming target.
- To accelerate future progress of emissions reductions via a public-private partnership, the DoD should establish advance market commitments (AMCs) for high-quality carbon removal (negative emissions) and decarbonized key materials, including aluminum, steel, and concrete.
The Climate Crisis
As described in the October 2018 report entitled “Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5° C” by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the November 2018 Fourth National Climate Assessment report found the current warming trajectory is on track to cause a litany of climate disasters, including the potential for losses in some domestic economic sectors that could reach hundreds of billions of dollars annually by the end of this century, expose hundreds of millions of people to deadly heat stress by 2050, increase poverty and migration conflicts, and risk of damage to $1 trillion worth of public infrastructure and coastal real estate in the U.S.
The Department’s Previous Statements
In January 2021, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin stated the Department of Defense “will immediately take appropriate policy actions to prioritize climate change considerations in our activities and risk assessments, to mitigate this driver of insecurity” (Austin). He further stated that “by changing how we approach our own carbon footprint, the Department can also be a platform for positive change, spurring the development of climate-friendly technologies at scale. … It is a national security issue, and we must treat it as such.”
The Federal Net Zero Plan
In December 2021, President Biden wrote an Executive Order stating, “The Federal Government faces broad exposure to the mounting risks and costs already posed by the climate crisis. In responding to this crisis, we have a once-in-a-generation economic opportunity to create and sustain jobs” (Biden). This order included provisions for zero carbon electricity, net zero buildings, and lower-carbon procurement, among others. While the released fact sheet does note carbon reductions from the Department of Defense, the executive order “exempts anything related to national security, combat, intelligence or military training” (Aton). And though the agency’s 2022 sustainability plan does show intention to follow these climate program pillars, the organization is not legally responsible for these actions. Additionally, under a less climate-conscious future administration, this progress could be reversed.
- Re-introduce the 117th Congress’s H.Res.767: “Expressing the sense of the House of Representatives that it is the duty of the Department of Defense to reduce the overall environmental impact of all military activities and missions, and for other purposes.” This calls on the DoD to fully account carbon emissions and begin making emissions reductions in line with the Paris agreement.
- Under Title III of the Defense Production Act, the President shall create advance market commitments (AMCs) for carbon removal and zero or low-carbon variants of key supply materials, including aluminum, steel, and concrete.
- Similar to the FAA’s Sustainable Aviation Fuel plan, the material AMCs will require materials with at least 50% lower carbon intensity than industry averages. These come with a domestic sourcing mandate.
- The carbon removal AMC will come with industry-recommended quality standards, including additionality, permanence, verifiability, and durability, similar to the private sector carbon removal AMC Frontier.
- Requiring the DoD to complete comprehensive carbon accounting on an annual basis of all operations, including military contractors, and to release a summary of that information to the public:
- Will greatly improve transparency on national emissions. Researchers are estimating the carbon impact of the military with little concrete data on operations and next to none on contractors or supply chain, and the numbers are important for understanding global emissions trends.
- Utilizing standard frameworks such as TCFD and the GHG Protocol for this inventory would set the standard for other countries’ militaries to follow, leading by example on the world stage.
- Cost money and likely require hiring lifecycle carbon analysis experts at the Pentagon
- Reducing military carbon emissions will:
- Save money on future climate adaptation across the federal government, DoD, and country. Since climate change has been extensively linked to more extreme weather, reduced intensity/frequency of natural disasters that require rebuilding military bases in vulnerable areas, and reduced spending on flood insurance payouts and FEMA responses, could save the federal government tens of billions.
- Reduce safety threats to U.S. troops overseas by reducing need for fuel transportation. In combat zones, armored fuel transportation puts a target on troops, which can be mitigated by reduced usage and energy independence from renewables.
- Renewable energy installations on bases increase operational resilience, lower energy costs, and mitigate harmful air pollution—exposure to which has future associated veteran healthcare costs
- Cause re-evaluation inside the military of long-standing equipment designs, rebuilding with the latest technologies to maintain the U.S. Armed Forces’ competitive edge
- Reduce the future need for expensive, resource-intensive carbon removal to reverse global warming
- Re-aligning to the Paris commitment will continue assertion of U.S. power as a climate leader, increasing political pressure on China to follow
- Have associated costs in architecture and land use planning at bases, equipment redesigns and testing, operational expertise, and more
- Setting up these domestic resource AMCs, including carbon removal, will:
- Enable the DoD to reach emissions targets through a public-private partnership in which the private sector innovates on key supplies needed for the future.
- In 2020, DoD spent $107B on aircraft (DiNapoli), including sourcing over 30 million pounds of aluminum (Sheller), or 3% of the country’s demand (Platzer and Peters). The U.S. has fallen behind globally on aluminum production, partially due to higher electricity prices.
- Reduce national security risk of relying on trade partners including China for materials like aluminum that aircraft, electronics, and weaponry supplies depend upon
- Accelerate the development of these low-carbon and carbon removal technologies, creating jobs, attracting talented scientists and engineers from other countries, and starting new companies that aid economic growth
- Provide necessary tools for the largest economic sectors to reach carbon emissions reduction targets, by innovating in the development and bringing down the cost of key material supplies, such as low-carbon cement and steel
- Provide environmental justice by undoing previous carbon emissions presently causing damage to the most vulnerable populations domestically and abroad
- Reduce future costs associated with these technologies—expanding the markets now pushes these technologies down their cost curves earlier, allowing more widespread deployment at lower cost in the future
Aton, Adam. "Military exempt from Biden order to cut federal emissions." E&E News, December 22, 2021, https://www.eenews.net/articles/military-exempt-from-biden-order-to-cut-federal-emissions/.
Austin III, Lloyd J. "Statement by Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III on Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad." U.S. Department of Defense, January 27, 2021, https://www.defense.gov/News/Releases/Release/Article/2484504/statement-by-secretary-of-defense-lloyd-j-austin-iii-on-tackling-the-climate-cr/.
Biden, Joseph. "Executive Order on Catalyzing Clean Energy Industries and Jobs Through Federal Sustainability." White House, December 8, 2021, https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/presidential-actions/2021/12/08/executive-order-on-catalyzing-clean-energy-industries-and-jobs-through-federal-sustainability/.
DiNapoli, Timothy J. "A Snapshot of Government-Wide Contracting For FY 2020 (infographic)." U.S. Government Accountability Office, June 22, 2021, https://www.gao.gov/blog/snapshot-government-wide-contracting-fy-2020-infographic.
Platzer, Michaela D, and Heidi M Peters. "U.S. Aluminum Manufacturing: National Security and Tariffs." Congressional Report Service, 14 Apr. 2023, https://sgp.fas.org/crs/natsec/IF11787.pdf.
Sheller, Mimi. "The Uneasy Alliance Between Aluminum and Warfare." U.S. Government Accountability Office, August 19, 2019, https://thereader.mitpress.mit.edu/the-uneasy-alliance-between-aluminum-and-warfare/.