New research: NATO standard of 2% of GDP leads to sharp increase in fossil emissions

Press release:

17 October 2023

NATO target of 2% GDP for military spending worsens the climate crisis

This new briefing Climate crossfire – How NATO's 2% military spending targets contribute to climate breakdown by Stop Wapenhandel, Transnational Institute, and Tipping Point North South, explores the climate impact of NATO's target that countries spend at least 2% of their GDP on military expenditure, of which at least 20% should be on new weapons.

This objective has quickly become generally accepted but has no scientific basis whatsoever. The contrast between NATO's objective and that of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) could not be greater. The IPCC states that fossil emissions must be reduced by 43% by 2030 to keep the temperature increase below 1.5°C. Although the IPCC relies on the best available climate science, it is largely ignored.

NATO's 2% target makes it even more difficult to achieve the IPCC target, because increasing military spending will significantly increase military fossil emissions and divert money from financing climate policy.

What exactly does the NATO target mean for greenhouse gas emissions, what are the financial and environmental consequences in the coming decade, and how will the arms industry benefit from this?

Climate crossfire – How NATO's 2% military spending targets contribute to climate breakdown

by Transnational Institute, Stop Arms Trade, Tipping Point North South

Co-publishers Center Delàs, IPPNW Germany, October 2023, 24 pages

Full report – English

Infographics accompanying the report (in Dutch)


The researchers from Stop Arms Trade, Transnational Institute and Tipping Point North South note, among other things, that:

* NATO's military fossil footprint increased from 196 million tons of CO2 equivalent (tCO2e) in 2021 to 226 million tCO2e in 2023 – 30 million tons more in two years, equivalent to over 8 million additional cars.

* If all NATO members meet the 2% of GDP target between 2021 and 2028, their total combined military fossil footprint will be 2 billion tCO2e.

* NATO military spending increased from $1.16 trillion to $1.26 trillion between 2021 and 2023. If all 31 Member States achieve the target of at least 2% GDP, total expenditure between 2021 and 2028 will amount to an estimated USD 11.8 trillion.

* Of NATO countries' $1.26 trillion in military spending by 2023, 12 years of unfulfilled climate financing promises of $100 billion per year could have been paid to the most vulnerable countries.

* If every NATO member met the 2% GDP target for military spending, NATO would spend an additional $2.57 trillion by 2028, enough to meet the climate adaptation costs of low- and middle-income countries for seven years, based estimated by the UNEP (United Nations Environment Programme).

* European NATO members must spend an additional €1 trillion to meet the 2% GDP target, roughly the same as the €1 trillion needed for the European Green Deal.

* NATO member states export weapons to 39 of the 40 countries most vulnerable to climate change. This increases the risk of armed conflict and oppression at a time of dangerous climate crisis.