Creating a greener future: Moving to sustainable defence operations

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News Article / April 22, 2021

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Assistant Deputy Minister (Infrastructure & Environment) Public Affairs

The Defence Team is as preoccupied as everyone else about moving quickly to achieve sustainable operations and minimize our impact on the environment. At the Department of National Defence (DND), we face the unique challenge of doing this for one of Canada’s largest federal organizations, while defending Canada and meeting our international military obligations.

Our defence policy, Strong, Secure, Engaged, and our renewed Defence Energy and Environment Strategy (DEES 2020-23) outlines our energy and environmental commitments: reducing our energy waste and environmental footprint, using cleaner energy sources, and better managing our energy and environmental performance.

Over the last several years, we’ve made significant improvements, but we’ve still got a long way to go. Since 2005, we’ve lowered our greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 31% for our infrastructure and commercial light-duty fleet, and we’re on our way to reaching 40% by 2025. We’re also working to meet the new federal target of net-zero GHG emissions by 2050, which includes our military fleet.

Our military is also among the first in the world to commit to a net-zero emissions target! Talk about paving the way.


Our military’s equipment is essential to operations and keeping Canadians safe, but we know we don’t have a free pass from pursuing more sustainable energy sources. We’re reporting military fleet emissions annually for accountability and transparency. We’re now testing sustainable energy solutions and new technologies in every field. For example, we’re supporting the Government of Canada’s actions to secure sustainable aviation fuels that can power our military fleet and lower greenhouse gas emissions without affecting our operational capability. We’re now also working to increase energy efficiency at our deployed camps.

We're also implementing the latest energy-efficient technologies and reducing our emissions through the procurement of new ships. The Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) is also beginning to use lower-emission fuels where possible, refitting ships with more energy-efficient lighting systems, and testing new technologies to reduce humidity and energy used for air conditioning onboard ships. Our future Canadian Surface Combatants requirements also indicate that we must meet or exceed all Canadian and international environmental regulations and laws.


We’re not just making improvements through our equipment; we’re ensuring we’re prepared and ready for climate change in the future. With this in mind, the CAF have been studying the impacts of climate change on our current and future operations and how we will need to adapt moving forward. While climate change's effects on our operations are inevitable, we’re committed to working with our allies, partners, and the broader international community to respond and adapt to the future operating environment.


Diversifying our energy sources to achieve higher levels of energy independence is also something that we, and many other NATO allies, are doing. By using energy more efficiently, and from more renewable and clean sources, 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.


Green upgrades for military residences, implementing energy performance contracts at bases and wings across Canada, and demolishing obsolete or underused facilities in our portfolio all help reduce our environmental footprint as well. As of 2020, we have invested $237 million in these green infrastructure projects.

Progress to date and moving forward

We’re now beginning to see the positive results of our efforts.

As of 2020: 

  • 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 
  • 33% of our light-duty vehicle fleet now runs on hybrid, plug-in hybrid and/or electric technology.

Looking forward, we also expect to transition at least 80% of our non-military vehicle fleet to zero-emission vehicles by 2030.

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 steps we’re taking with our military fleet and other efforts are moving us in the right direction to achieve our climate goals. We’re as committed as ever to doing our part to leave a healthy environment to future generations of Canadians.

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