Environmental Accountability of NATO: Testimonies of Environmental Problems and Field Studies in Germany and Italy

By Juneseo Hwang

The military is often referred to as the single largest environmental polluter on our planet, but, in the name of national security, it is usually exempted from several regulations to protect the environment (Westing 1988; Coates et al. 2011). However, this does not always mean that the military has no motives and means to do so. NATO, the biggest military cooperation initiative on the globe, has developed its own environmental guidelines from the 1960s (NATO 2014), and many armed forces around the world have developed their own strategies to mitigate environmental problems caused by military activities and operations.

Then, the question is to what extent the military has contributed to environmental protection in reality and to what extent the military’s environmental policy has been accountable for people and nature in the vicinity of military facilities and operational sites. This article focuses on NATO’s environmental policy and practice and is written based on the academic literature, media reports, field studies and local people’s testimonies from some NATO/US bases in Germany and Italy. It first reviews environmental issues related to NATO and then illustrates some of the problems of NATO activities in the two countries studied (Germany and Italy). These findings provide the basis for assessing NATO’s current environmental safeguards and a conclusion that raises a deeper question about the Western security organisation’s environmental accountability, specifically in relation to transparency and responsiveness.

For further details please see the attached pdf.