Unpacking narratives on climate and militarism

As climate change has risen higher on the global agenda, so too has a problematic and insufficiently probed framing of climate change as a security issue. In 2021, TNI helped reveal the interconnectedness of climate inaction and border militarisation, filling an important gap in information and analysis. Building on previous work, a short, accessible primer described the dangers of militarising the climate crisis, including the threat of deepening injustices for the most climate-affected peoples. The primer, which was viewed more than 2,500 times, caught the attention of Time Magazine, The New Humanitarian and the Guardian. As part of this work, TNI has forged new relationships between migrant justice, climate justice and peace activists.

“Very good primer on the dangers of the ‘climate is a security threat’ frame.”
– Naomi Klein

TNI’s groundbreaking study Global Climate Wall: How the world’s wealthiest nations prioritise borders over climate action showed that the richest nations are spending more than twice as much on border enforcement than on climate finance for the poorest countries. We underscored the urgent need to move away from militarised borders and toward climate action. The report, which featured a video introduction by leading US environmentalist Bill McKibben, was published in the run-up to the UN climate conference COP26 in Glasgow and launched at an online event attended by 95 people. The report received significant attention. Co-author Nick Buxton was featured on Democracy Now and some 45 media outlets, including CBS News, the Guardian, Liberation (France), and Independent (UK) covered the topic. Public figures, including Jeremy Corbyn, Diane Abbott, and George Monbiot, amplified TNI’s findings and messages. The report reached an estimate four million people via social media.

‘Important  new @TNInstitute report finds world’s seven biggest emitters are spending an average of 2.3 times as much on arming borders than on climate finance.’
–  Harsha Walia, Migrant rights activist

At an online press conference organised by the COP 26 Coalition prior to the G7 summit, we put the military’s role in contributing and responding to climate breakdown on the agenda. We raised awareness about the exemption of the military in global emissions calculations and the Paris Agreement, the increase in military spending, and the problematic positioning of the military as part of the solution to the crisis. Our analysis featured in an extensive article on the subject in the Irish Times.

TNI was also pleased to co-lead a new international working group, formed in the run-up to COP26, that was extremely successful in putting the issue of militarism and climate change on the agenda of the climate movement. Comprised of peace and environmental groups, activists, and researchers, the network published a petition calling for military emissions to be integrated into the Paris Agreement, organised a meeting during the People’s Summit in Glasgow, coordinated a Climate Peace Day on 4 November, and shared its analysis at a People’s Tribunal on the climate. A peace bloc brought thousands together in the Climate March, where more than 40 events were organised on the nexus of climate and militarism. A new initiative to track military emissions was launched. A question to Nancy Pelosi on the climate impact of military emissions went viral, receiving millions of visits.

Momentum against the Energy Charter Treaty

We continued to build broad support this year for elimination of the Energy Charter Treaty (ECT), one of the biggest barriers to climate action. The ECT gives energy corporations the power to sue governments for billions for taking action on climate, including policies to phase out coal, ban oil drilling, or reverse failed energy privatisation. Joint research with Corporate Europe Observatory, advocacy and movement building have been crucial for increasing awareness and opposition to the ECT. This year, we co-organised webinars, trainings and strategy meetings, including a five-part online course attended by some 200 activists, journalists and policy-makers worldwide. A new guide, co-published with allies, provided new data and clear arguments designed to support activists, concerned citizens, journalists and policy-makers in confronting pro-ECT propaganda and strengthening advocacy and lobbying against the treaty. Training and financial support to partners has contributed to expansion of the global movement against the ECT, particularly in Africa.

In Europe, TNI has played a key role in supporting national and EU-level campaigns. A new report, published for Spanish audiences, specifically analysed the cases against Spain under the ECT, including their costs and the actors involved. More than 60 Spanish organisations have signed a manifesto calling for an exit from the ECT. During ECT ‘modernisation’ negotiations in Brussels in July, more than 400 environmental groups, unions, charities, and NGOs signed a statement calling on states to leave the ECT before the COP26 climate talks, which received significant media attention in Europe and worldwide. Calls for termination or withdrawal from the Treaty have grown among European trade unions, civil society organisations and the public. Together with a large coalition, we mobilised more than one million people to sign a petition calling on the EU, European countries, and the UK to exit the ECT and stop its expansion.

Policy-makers, including a growing number of parliamentarians in Spain, Germany, the Netherlands and the EU, are hearing our message. The governments of France and Spain have put the possibility of a coordinated withdrawal on the agenda, and, according to media reports, Poland, Spain, France and Greece have asked the European Commission to develop legal guidance on leaving the deal. In September, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled that the ECT is not applicable in intra-EU cases. TNI’s analysis of the ECT was echoed in critical media coverage by Investigate Europe, Deutsche Welle, El Confidencial, Publico, Infolibre, the Guardian, El Salto, among others. Meanwhile, voices at the United Nations level, including the Chair of the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights and other speakers at the 10th UN Forum on Business and Human Rights, have joined our broader call to make international investment agreements compatible with human rights, social and environmental goals by eliminating the investor state dispute settlement mechanism (ISDS).