National Security Archive: National Security and Climate Change: Behind the U.S. Pursuit of Military Exemptions to the Kyoto Protocol

Malcolm Byrne's picture

Pentagon insistence, lodged over State Department concerns, drove strong U.S. push to exclude military operations from climate treaty

Kyoto experience presents parallels as Biden administration faces challenges on climate policy

Edited by Burkely Hermann

Washington, D.C., January 20, 2022 – Pentagon demands for military exemptions during the 1997 Kyoto climate negotiations posed a substantial challenge for the Clinton administration both internally and with American allies, according to a collection of declassified internal papers posted today by the nongovernmental National Security Archive.

The Defense Department proposal created rifts with other federal agencies and American negotiators in Kyoto had to wrestle to convince other countries to agree to exempt specific military operations from emissions requirements. Still, some governments willingly agreed with the idea and openly supported it. Ultimately, the Pentagon's basic wishes were included as part of the Kyoto accord.

The records in today’s posting primarily focus on the perspectives of U.S. negotiators and officials, but also include the views of members of Congress and others who were critical of the Kyoto Protocol because they wanted even larger carve-outs for military operations.

These documents have particular relevance as the Biden administration advances its climate change policy and the Pentagon commits to climate adaptation measures.