CLIMATE CHANGE AND THE U.S. MILITARY
David Saveliev of the Quincy Institute challenges President Biden to expand his climate plan. In an article entitled: Biden’s climate plan needs to address one of the worst polluters: The US military (responsiblestatecraft.org, 4 Nov 2021), Saveliev writes:
The U.S. Department of Defense is indeed the world’s single largest consumer of oil. In 2019, a report found that if the military was a country, it would be the 47th largest emitter of greenhouse gases.
Saveliev goes on to enumerate other climate-related challenges posed by the U.S. military including their habit of abandoning military bases without cleaning up toxic waste, the latest being in Afghanistan. Experts note that:
There are very few enforcement mechanisms under international law to compel U.S. forces to resolve these issues.
Further steps that the military could take to reduce its carbon footprint include:
- Expanding the effort to move to hybrid vehicles to include conversion of combat vehicles – planes, ships, tanks – away from petroleum and
- Increasing reliance in combat operations of solar panel use as in Afghanistan
Clearly, scaling back the American military war machine (as many progressives propose for reasons quite independent of environmental concerns) could play a central role in alleviating the existential threat of climate change while also reducing the risk of war.
In a major report entitled “Climate Change: The Greatest National Security Threat to the United States (Quincy Brief No. 18, quincyinst.org, 25 Oct 2021), Anatol Lieven writes:
A U.S. strategy that genuinely prioritized climate change as an existential national threat would first recognize that the continued pursuit of global hegemony — with inevitably deteriorating relations with other great powers such as China — all but eliminates the prospects for crucial, international collaboration against the shared threat of climate change.
CHINA AND COP26
With limited information on plans by the Chinese military to reduce its negative environmental impacts, we wish instead to help set the record straight on China’s important contribution to COP26, the critically important UN Climate Change Conference, now ongoing in Glasgow, Scotland.
This effort at re-balancing the China coverage is necessary against a backdrop of Western media coverage that has repeatedly emphasized the absence of Chinese President Xi Jinping from this conference and his alleged failure to announce any new commitments.
To this end we recommend an illuminating briefing, prepared by the Hong Kong-based law firm Dezan, Shira & Associates entitled: Xi Jinping Climate Change Speech To COP26: Text And Analysis (Chris Devonshire-Ellis, china-briefing.com) 2 Nov 2021.
The article includes the complete written statement provided by Chinese President Xi Jinping to the United Nations COP26 climate summit in Glasgow, together with analysis and commentary by Chris Devonshire-Ellis (CDC).
He begins by providing a rather different view of Xi’s absence and the importance that the Chinese attaches to these climate negotiations:
Certain media outlets have suggested that Xi’s non-appearance at COP26 is due to political in-fighting in Beijing, in fact Xi hasn’t travelled overseas since the Covid-19 pandemic broke out and has not attended any international events in person for the past 18 months.
The Chinese have however sent a large delegation of experts to Glasgow, and are very well represented to discuss matters during the two week long discussions.
The most important part of the analysis concerns the repeated allegation that Xi offered COP26 nothing new on China’s position. CDC writes:
Western media have already criticized Xi’s speech for containing no new climate pledges. This is both inaccurate and unfair. Xi mentioned both the Working Guidance For Carbon Dioxide Peaking And Carbon Neutrality and the Action Plan For Carbon Dioxide Peaking Before 2030 as Chinese policies.
These were released by the Chinese National Reform & Development Commission (NDRC) just last week.
Devonshire-Ellis then goes on:
These two plans are ambitious, seeking to peak Chinese emissions before 2030 (ie within the next eight years), and calling for its share of non-fossil fuel consumption to reach 25% while reducing carbon dioxide emissions by more than 65% of 2005 levels.
Carbon neutrality should be achieved by 2060.
The plan outlines key tasks to achieve a carbon peak before 2030, including promoting green and low-carbon transportation, advancing a circular economy, and supporting technological innovation. It also calls for China to develop a unified and standardized carbon emissions statistical accounting system, improve laws, regulations, and standards, optimize economic policies, and establish sound market mechanisms as part of its efforts to enhance policy support.
Devonshire-Ellis then compares this plan with the U.S. climate change commitments, noting China has provided details of how it intends to achieve the carbon emission reductions, something America has yet to do.
He also highlights a recent joint venture between China’s Baowu Steel Group and America’s Honeywell Corporation to produce hydrogen energy, concluding:
That indicates that US technology and companies are already working with China to reduce emissions….
The briefing concludes as follows:
Climate change requires political adaption, and within this sphere, it would be best for the China Hawks to be restrained and allow, at least for these initiatives, exactly what China has called for: cooperation.
…given the unpredictable changes in operational tempo, the federal [greenhouse gas emissions] reduction target will not include emissions from military activities and operations. – DND Defence Energy and Environment Strategy
Like the USA, the Canadian military has a huge carbon footprint, and the Department of National Defence is the federal government’s largest carbon polluter. In our December 2020 blog we noted that this failure to include reduction targets meant:
- There is no way to reliably track how well DND is actually doing; and
- There is no cost-benefit analysis in climate and human security terms of these military operations.
We therefore reiterate our call on the Government of Canada to fulfill its promise of “greening Defence by including the full scope of its military activities and operations in its federal carbon emission reduction strategy, and by initiating a broader dialogue within and beyond government on the profound implications of climate security on traditional military-centric security paradigms.
ISRAEL CRIMINALIZES PALESTINIAN HUMAN RIGHTS ORGANIZATIONS
On 22 October Israel issued a military order declaring 6 respected Palestinian human rights organizations as terrorist groups. The groups are Addameer, al-Haq, Defense for Children Palestine, the Union of Agricultural Work Committees, Bisan Center for Research and Development and the Union of Palestinian Women Committees.
The designation authorizes Israeli authorities to close their offices, seize their assets and arrest and jail their staff members, and it prohibits funding or even publicly expressing support for their activities.
Apparently based on allegations characterized by the UN High Commissioner of Human Rights as “extremely vague” and “unsubstantiated”, this action has engendered widespread condemnation. In the joint words of Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch:
This appalling and unjust decision is an attack by the Israeli government on the international human rights movement. This decision is an alarming escalation that threatens to shut down the work of Palestine’s most prominent civil society organizations.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet further stated:
The organizations concerned are some of the most reputable human rights and humanitarian groups in the occupied Palestinian territory and for decades have worked closely with the UN….
These designations are the latest development in a long, stigmatising campaign against these and other organisations, damaging their ability to deliver on their crucial work.
Arab Digest, which devoted its (paywalled) 28 October Newsletter to this matter, referenced a series of tweets from the Swedish Minister for International Development Cooperation and Humanitarian Affairs Per Olsson Fridh, where he noted that previous allegations against the organizations had not been substantiated “after careful scrutiny”.
Arab Digest (AD) also referenced the critique by Eliav Lieblich and Adam Shinar on the Just Security website, entitled: Counterterrorism Off the Rails: Israel’s Declaration of Palestinian Groups as “Terrorist” Organizations” (justsecurity.org, 24 Oct 2021).
In a forensic analysis of Israel’s Counterterrorism Law of 2016, the site notes that organisations have no right to present evidence before a decision is taken, nor do they have access to the information or evidence upon which the decision was made.
Though there is an appeal process, it is conducted by the Ministry of Defence, the self same organisation that decreed the designation.
And in a Kafkaesque twist there is no obligation for the ministry to reveal the evidence upon which it took its decision as it is considered classified intelligence.
In the view of Lieblich and Shinar:
…it simply cannot be accepted that well-known and widely respected Palestinian human rights groups be designated as “terrorist organizations” by executive fiat and on the basis of classified intelligence.
The reasons are too murky, the interests too conflicting, and the stakes are far too high for this extreme action to pass as tolerable. In general, no legal system worthy of its name should provide for the designation of human rights groups as “terrorist organizations” by decree.
The authors contrast this “aggressive” Israeli move against Palestinian NGOs with its “non-response to the “alarming increase in settler violence in recent months:
Needless to say, no settler group has been declared a terrorist organization, and barely no suspects, for that matter, have been prosecuted or punished for these acts of violence.
They end their article with the ominous implications of this action beyond Israel and the Occupied Palestinian territories:
Failure to reverse the course in Israel will surely undermine efforts to prevent a similar lurch toward closing off dissent and human rights monitors in other countries.
ISRAELI IMPUNITY FOR HUMAN RIGHTS ABUSES MUST END
In an article by a Palestinian commentator, entitled: Why Israel is trying to criminalise Palestinian civil society (Yara Hawari, aljazeera.com) 24 Oct 2021, Hawari states in part:
This attack on Palestinian organisations is not happening out of the blue. It is the latest escalation of Israel’s systematic campaign to stifle Palestinian civil society that has been ongoing for over seven decades.
In an echo of the joint Amnesty/Human Rights Watch statement referenced early, Hawari goes on to say:
…this is happening because of decades of Israeli impunity and unwillingness by the international community to hold the regime accountable. The international community needs to recognise its role as an Israeli crime enabler and finally take decisive action against Israel’s repeated violations of international law.
We observe pointedly that Canada has not been among those speaking out against this outrageous action, demonstrating yet again the cynical selectivity of our support for human rights and international law. We also underscore the words of Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International in their joint statement that:
How the international community responds will be a true test of its resolve to protect human rights defenders.
We call upon Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to join Sweden and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in condemning the criminalization by Israel of bona fide Palestinian human rights organizations.
We further call on the Government of Canada to end its unconscionable refusal to take steps to hold Israel accountable for its continuing, grave human rights abuses in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.
STILL NO NEED FOR CANADIAN SUBMARINES
In a section of our 16 July 2021 blog, entitled: “End Canadian submarine programme full-stop,” we reviewed all the reasons why the recently established “Canadian patrol submarine project” should conclude, as we first did in 2015 that:
There is no operational requirement that can possibly justify the enormous expense of a replacement submarine programme.
Since that blog, two recent articles on the subject provide further cogent evidence of the soundness of our recommendation (even though that may not have been the intention of either of the two respective authors).
David Perry, Vice-President of the Canadian Global Affairs Institute (CGAI) – in an article entitled: Canadian Patrol Submarines: Complementing or Competing with Continental Defence? – does an excellent job of outlining recent Canadian commitments to NORAD modernization and the potentially immense costs associated therewith.
Noting that the “lower end” of the cost of North Warning system replacement is $11 billion but “somewhere north of $100 billion [is] a plausible upper range,” he further states:
To put that in perspective, depending on what Cabinet decides to do and how much, if any, of the tab the Americans pick up, future continental defence investments could exceed the $62.3 billion in new money over 20 years the government pledged in Strong, Secure, Engaged just four years ago.
But given the current focus on continental defence, and its competing investment, the RCN should think long and hard about how new submarines can help keep Canada strong at home and secure in North America before focusing on how they can be engaged in foreign waters.
In the view of Ceasefire.ca:
The real impact of Perry’s analysis is surely that the government of Canada is unlikely to take on another significant cost through a submarine replacement programme, however the need for it is “packaged”.
The challenges of a submarine replacement programme are fleshed out further in an extremely clear and concise article by Captain Norman Jolin (retired) entitled: A Canadian Patrol Submarine What are the Options? (navalassoc.ca, Oct 2021).
Jolin’s analysis is candid about the difficulties in “selling” a submarine programme to the Canadian public, at the best of times, let alone now:
Because submarine operations are inherently secretive it is difficult to trumpet what a Canadian submarine capability brings to the table without quickly entering a classified discussion. Also, submarines are expensive to operate…. In short, selling submarines to the Canadian government has always been very difficult and the fiscal conditions of a post pandemic economy are not optimal.
Jolin outlines the unique requirements for a Canadian submarine:
A Canadian submarine must be ocean going to meet the realities of Canadian waters, including the Arctic, whilst having long endurance without access to support facilities.
Other considerations include:
- “crew comforts” over lengthy deployments,
- mixed gender crews,
- environmental requirements, particularly for Arctic operations,
- a North American supply chain, maximizing Canadian sources wherever possible, and
- a deployment date before the late 2030’s, given the end of service life of the current Victoria Class subs.
This is a thorny issue as the optimal submarine design for Canada simply does not currently exist.
He then examines the potential builders of ocean -going submarines today, a list that does not include any company that has successfully built a submarine of the size Canada requires in the timeframe Canada needs.
He also raises the Australian experience of spiralling costs, as we did in our 16 July blog:
The recent Australian experience with an ab initio design process for their Attack-class submarines (now cancelled) has shown that this process can be inordinately lengthy.
Jolin, again not mincing words, begins his conclusion with the following statement:
The Canadian Patrol Submarine Project will be a tough sell to a government recovering from the post pandemic fiscal reality.
In our view, it is not just a tough sell, but an impossible one, with the “clincher” argument being the fact that, for all intents and purposes, for the last 23 years – since Canada purchased the ill-fated second-hand British subs in 1998 – the Canadian navy has demonstrated it can function perfectly well without submarines. And that was largely before DND began to invest heavily in undersea sensing technology.
There is no operational requirement that can possibly justify the enormous expense of a replacement submarine programme, at a time when there are so many competing demands for Canada’s defence dollars, not to mention, pressing post-pandemic non-military priorities.
We reiterate our call on the Government of Canada to unequivocally shelve plans for a “potential” replacement class of submarines and, instead, announce definitive plans for the decommissioning of the Victoria-class submarines.
JORDAN BISHOP, A PEACE MOVEMENT COLLEAGUE AND A VERY GOOD MAN (1926-2021)
In the last week of October, Canada lost a long-time peace activist, with a deep commitment to social justice.
His official obituary in the Ottawa Citizen, available by clicking here, includes this tribute:
He was a lifelong advocate for peace, actively opposing military intervention from Vietnam to Iraq and Afghanistan, and working to end nuclear arms – in the peace and anti-nuclear movements in Cape Breton, and in Project Ploughshares and Veterans Against Nuclear Arms.
The commemoration continues:
[Jordan] also remained committed to a life in solidarity with the people of Latin America – in support of Chilean refugees in the 1970s, with Tools for Peace for Nicaragua in the 1980s, and more recently with the Campesino Committee of the Highlands in Guatemala, Pastors for Peace Caravans to Cuba, and Bajo Lempa in El Salvador.
Since the announcement of his passing on the CNANW and Peace list servs, many heartfelt tributes to this enormously engaged and engaging man have poured in. Here are some of them:
Mary-Ellen Francoeur, representative for Religions for Peace Canada in CNANW, and member of Pax Christi Toronto:
What an incredible life of strong values in action, and a great heart and mind. I wish I could be in Ottawa to extend my personal condolences to his wife and children. I am most grateful for having had Jordan in my life. He will continue to be a great model of selfless dedication.
Robin Collins, co-chair of CNANW:
We had regular discussions on a wide variety of topics, from Rwanda to the Middle East, Soviet history and policy, and UN intervention. He was always a generous, thoughtful and kind discussant (offline and online) and had a broad reading of history. He will be missed by many of us.
Ernie Regehr, co-Founder of Project Ploughshares (OC):
I add my expression of deep appreciation for the life and character of Jordan, and for the privilege of having known him and interacted with him on so many occasions. It was always a pleasure to have extended conversations with him – he obviously read very widely, had great knowledge of history, and was an innovative thinker. One always ended a chat with him better informed, and feeling the better for having spent time with him. My condolences and good wishes to his family.
Former Ambassador for Disarmament Doug Roche (OC):
I remember Jordan Bishop very well, particularly from the 1980s period when we had a lot of inter-action. He was thoughtful, very well informed and soft-spoken. In Jordan, the waters were quiet but deep. He made a lasting contribution to the peace movement and we are all the better for that. I send my condolences to his family and friends.
A visitation was held on 6 Nov 2021 at Funeral Cooperative of Ottawa and a memorial is being planned for next summer.
In lieu of flowers, donations in Jordan’s memory may be made to MiningWatch Canada (miningwatch.ca).
Photo credit: Wikimedia (Arctic sea ice)