Strong, Secure, Engaged: Moving to Sustainable Defence Operations

February 13, 2020 - Defence Stories

You may have noticed more people talking about extreme weather events, unpredictable weather patterns, and record-breaking temperatures in the news. Discussions about what we’re doing to address it, and whether it’s enough, are taking place around the globe. Many organizations, like the Defence Team, are moving quickly to achieve sustainable operations to minimize their impact on the environment.

At the Department of National Defence (DND), we face the unique challenge of achieving environmentally sustainable operations for one of Canada’s largest federal organizations, while defending Canada and meeting our international military obligations. Over the last several years, we’ve made significant gains but we still need a lot of energy to power our bases and equipment. Good progress is being made to green our bases and commercial vehicle fleets. As of 2018-19, we lowered our greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 32% from 2005 levels, and we’re well on our way to reach 40% by 2030 and the new federal target of 80% by 2050. In terms of powering our military fleet, reliable low-carbon and renewable fuels are not yet broadly available. Fighter jets and other aircraft, ships, and armoured vehicles rely on carbon-intense fuels for power, and using those fuels produces a significant amount of greenhouse gases.

This equipment is essential to military operations and keeping Canadians safe. And while our military fleet remains exempt from federal GHG emissions reduction targets, we don’t interpret this as a free pass from achieving a more sustainable fleet. On the contrary, we’re tracking fleet emissions, and we report them annually. More importantly, we’re testing sustainable energy solutions and new technologies in the field, we’re working to limit energy use at deployed camps, and we’re partnering with industry on research into the sustainable fuels of the future.

This work is a natural fit for the Defence Team. Few Canadians will spend as much time outdoors as a soldier does – Canadian Armed Forces members spend a considerable amount of time in the wilderness across Canada and throughout the world. It’s also important to remember that it’s our women and men in uniform who’ll be called to respond to more weather-related natural disasters, and experience the impacts of climate change first-hand. And apart from mitigating the risks of climate change, there are strategic benefits to achieving more sustainable military operations. Like DND, many of Canada’s NATO allies are already diversifying their energy sources to achieve higher levels of energy independence. By using energy more efficiently, and more renewable and clean sources of energy, we’re becoming less reliant on large amounts of fuel, some of which is imported, to sustain our operations. Energy independence makes for a more agile and secure military, and our people are making it happen.

October 2019 marked two years since we launched the Defence Energy and Environment Strategy (DEES), a plan to improve our energy efficiency and environmental management across Defence. While Strong, Secure, Engaged, outlines our commitment to greening infrastructure and taking action against climate change, the DEES outlines our energy and environment commitments: reducing our energy waste and environmental footprint, using cleaner energy sources, and better managing our energy and environmental performance.

We’re beginning to see the positive results of our efforts. Last year, 100% of new and upgraded defence buildings were built to meet the latest industry standards for excellence in green building design, construction and maintenance; 75% of all electricity used at bases and wings in provinces with carbon-intensive electrical grids came from clean sources; and 27% of our light-duty vehicle fleet now runs on hybrid, plug-in hybrid and/or electric technology.

We know that greening our infrastructure and operations will take time, but the Defence Team has the right people dedicated to finding solutions to our unique challenge. The DEES and other efforts are moving us in the right direction to achieve our climate goals, and we’re as committed as ever to doing our part to leave a healthy environment to future generations of Canadians.

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