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Latest news: ESG a key theme for defence sector

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10 April 2024

New York holds Northrop Grumman accountable for environmental cleanup

New York Governor Kathy Hochul has directed the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to intensify efforts to hold aerospace and defence technology company Northrop Grumman accountable for the cleanup of Bethpage Community Park.

The directive follows the discovery of six 55-gallon drums encased in concrete beneath the former ballfield, prompting concerns about potential contamination in the area.

In 2023, Northrop Grumman released its ESG report, showcasing advancements in emissions reductions, diversity, inclusion, ethical business operations, and progress in achieving sustainability goals.

The company’s Task Force on climate-related financial disclosures report, further highlighted its commitment to climate-related governance and risk management. In 2022, GlobalData’s analysis identified Northrop Grumman as best positioned to navigate future disruptions in the ESG landscape.

Governor Hochul emphasised the state’s commitment to protecting residents of Oyster Bay and safeguarding the environment, stating: “New York is a national leader when it comes to addressing legacy pollution.”

Northrop Grumman working to resolve issue 

In response to the discovery of the encased drums in Bethpage Community Park, Northrop Grumman acknowledged the situation.

“While conducting environmental remediation in the Bethpage Community Park under the supervision of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC), we discovered several drums encased in concrete underground in a closed area of the Park,” a company spokesperson said.

“We remain committed to protecting the health and well-being of the community and to continuing our partnership with NYSDEC and other government regulators to address environmental conditions in the area,” the spokesperson added.

Under DEC oversight, cleanup efforts are underway to investigate, contain, and address the US Navy-Grumman groundwater plume associated with past operations at Grumman’s Bethpage facility and the US Naval Weapons Industrial Reserve Plant.

Collaborative efforts between federal, state, and local partners aim to enhance cleanup measures and ensure the safe disposal of contaminated soil and materials.

According to reports the DEC is coordinating with relevant agencies to assess the contents and develop a plan for their removal and disposal. Ground-penetrating radar testing is underway to identify additional underground drums that may pose environmental risks. 

9 May 2024

Babcock science-based net-zero target receives SBTi validation

UK-based defence provider Babcock has gained validation from the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi) for its science-based near and long-term emissions reduction targets aligned with reaching net-zero no later than 2050, according to a company statement.

In 2021, Babcock launched its Plan Zero 40 decarbonisation strategy, which commits to the delivery of a 2030 science-based target in line with a 1.5oC pathway and achieving 90% emissions reduction across its estate, assets, and operations (Scope 1 and 2) by 2040, and net-zero across the full value chain (Scope 3) by 2050.

Science-based targets provide a pathway for companies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, helping prevent the worst impacts of climate change and future-proof business growth, the company stated in a 9 May release.

David Lockwood, Babcock chief executive said: “We play a critical role in international defence; a trusted guardian of national security, counted upon to protect lives and maintain our lines of defence. We’re committed to minimising the impact of our operations on the environment and collaborating with our partners to combat climate change.

“We’re on a mission to reduce emissions and progress towards net-zero. This independent assessment and validation of our emissions reduction targets is a major milestone on that journey. Now more than ever, what we do matters: creating a safe and secure world, together.” 

14 December 2023

Warfare and military activities cause major emissions – COP28 report

From COP28 President Sultan Al Jaber claiming there was “no science” behind the need to abandon fossil fuels, to the Samoa-chaired Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) saying it was not in the room when the final agreement was struck, COP28 made headlines for its controversial moments. 

Military emissions largely went under the radar – in both the COP agenda and headlines.

“COP28 has made progress in finally acknowledging that we must transition away from fossil fuels, but yet again militaries have been excused from climate action”, Ellie Kinney, campaigner for the Conflict and Environment Observatory (CEOBS), told Global Defence Technology at the time.

From Gaza to Ukraine 

On 6 December, more than 200 researchers from 90 organisations across 26 countries released the Global Tipping Points report.

As the largest-ever study on climate tipping points, Global Tipping Points highlights both warfare and everyday military activities as major drivers of global carbon emissions.

Ongoing military operations in the Middle East (Gaza) and Ukraine have received significant media attention, but less covered are the environmental consequences of such conflicts.

Alongside organisations including CEOBS and GHG Accounting of War, Ukrainian delegates hosted an event on 4 December 2023 focusing on the military emissions gap.

Researchers have estimated that the emissions for the first seven months of the Ukraine-Russia war amounted to 100 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent – the same amount as the Netherlands’ total emissions over the same period.

Military emissions struggle for COP28 headline space 

As civil society ramps up the pressure on states and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change to address militarism, COP28 hosted a record number of side events focusing on the link between militaries and climate crisis.

“While it is promising to see root causes of the climate crisis being named, militarism continues to be ignored within negotiations,” Kinney said. “States must acknowledge defence as a fossil fuel intensive sector and call on Governments to report their military emissions and set reduction targets in line with the aims of the Paris Agreement.”

Militaries are still not obligated to disclose or reduce greenhouse gas emissions, an exemption that has existed since the US Department of Defence (DoD) made it part of the Kyoto Protocol at COP3 in 1997.

“The DoD pushed to get the exemption in the first place,” Neta Crawford, Professor of International Relations at the University of Oxford, told Global Defence Technology. “They could push for better accounting and publish better accounting right now.” 

In Dubai, military emissions did not receive the attention called for by climate campaigners, academics, and the United Nations Development Programme. 

With global defence budgets on the rise as conflicts from Ukraine to Sudan to the Middle East show no sign of ceasing, scrutiny over the climate impact of military operations is expected to increase proportionately ahead of COP29 in Baku, Azerbaijan.