Before the Canadian government signs a contract for new fighter jets, it would be advisable for the sake of transparency and public debate for an official calculation to be done on the carbon pollution the jets would generate.
At the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow, calls for military emissions to be included in CO2 targets are mounting.
Author and journalist Jonathan Cook commented: “Western armed forces are the most polluting on the planet – and the goal at COP26 is to keep that fact a closely guarded secret.”
He adds: “Washington insisted on an exemption from reporting on, and reducing, its military emissions at the Kyoto summit, 24 years ago. Unsurprisingly, everyone else jumped on that bandwagon.”
The organization World Beyond War also made the call for governments to stop excluding military pollution from climate agreements.
Under the Paris Agreement reached at the COP21 climate summit in Paris in 2015, militaries lost their automatic exemption, but were not obligated to cut their emissions and reporting on those emissions was left to the discretion of individual states.
Cook further notes: “All too often the figures are disguised – lumped in with emissions from other sectors, such as transport.”
For instance, this article in The Conversation notes: “Canada reports its emissions under multiple IPCC categories, reporting military flights under general transport, and energy for bases under commercial/institutional emissions.”
Canada’s military emissions
This past August, the Ottawa Citizen reported: “National security organizations such as the Canadian Forces and the RCMP now produce 45 per cent of all of the federal government’s greenhouse gases, a new report says.”
That article adds: “DND spokeswoman Jessica Lamirande said National Defence was working on reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 40 per cent from 2005 levels by 2030.” It further notes that Lamirande says DND is on track to achieve this goal by 2025.
And yet the Department of National Defence has not publicly made available the amount of carbon pollution produced by Canada’s existing fleet of CF-18s.
Canada’s new fighter jets
It is expected that the Canadian government will announce in March 2022 the fighter jet it intends to purchase.
It is widely presumed that the Lockheed Martin F-35 will be chosen.
The article by Cook highlights: “The latest fighter jet developed by the US, the F-35, is reported to burn 5,600 litres of fuel an hour.”
Each F-35 is supposed to have a service lifetime of 8,000 hours, though operational tests suggest the number could be as low as 2,100 hours (which raises another set of questions given the estimated $76.8 billion overall cost to Canada of purchasing and maintaining these fighter jets).
A simple calculation of 88 fighter jets (the number Canada intends to purchase) x 8,000 hours x 5,600 litres of fuel an hour amounts to 3,942,400,000 litres of fuel.
PBO analysis on interim F-18 aircraft
The Fiscal Analysis of the Interim F-18 Aircraft produced by the Parliamentary Budget Officer states:
“Petroleum, oil and lubricant costs are calculated by combining historical burn rates per flying hour with costs per litre and projecting total costs over the assumed flight profile of 160 hours per aircraft per year.”
This report from February 2019 notes: “The Operations and Sustainment phase has not yet begun and will have a duration of over 12 years, ending with the planned withdrawal from service of the CF-18 fleet in 2032-2033.”
It calculates: “On a non-risk-adjusted basis, …petroleum, oil and lubricant costs are estimated at $102.5 million before accounting for price risk.”
While it calculates the dollar cost, it does not calculate the greenhouse gas emissions of these interim F-18 aircraft.
New report needed from the PBO
Before the Canadian government signs a contract with Lockheed Martin or another manufacturer in early 2022, it would be advisable for the sake of transparency and public debate for an official calculation to be done on the carbon pollution that would be generated by these fighter jets.
Stephen Kretzmann of Oil Change International has stated: “The atmosphere certainly counts the carbon from the military. Therefore we must as well.”