23 March 2022
The approach and response to climate change for the Canadian Department of National Defence (DND) and Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) are currently embedded in its Defence Energy and Environment Strategy 2020-2023 [DEES].
In Canada alone, defence manages approximately 2.1 million hectares of land and 20,000 buildings and operates and trains over large sea, land, and airspace domestically and internationally. In response, the DEES acknowledges the responsibility of defence to show leadership in environmental and energy sustainability and an obligation to manage assets and operations efficiently.
The DEES outlines three key objectives, two of which are directly relevant to climate change:
Concerning objective 1, DND has set some clear targets for decarbonisation, including:
As outlined in the DEES 2020-2021 ‘Results’ document, action is progressing on many of these targets.
In objective 2, given the impacts of a changing climate on infrastructure, operations and personnel safety, the Strategy also recognises the imperative of better climate resilience and adaptation.
Targets 10 and 11 of the DEES seek to address objective two and are related to building climate resilience and treating identified physical climate risks through adaptation:
The DEES notes that the risk assessment framework will be implemented by reviewing existing policy and practice across the department and CAF, and identifying key areas where climate change can have an impact. Once identified, climate change adaptation measures will be included in key policies and practices. Through this work, Defence will be able to anticipate and better understand the impacts of climate change, leading to the possibility of more detailed site-based climate risk assessments and adaptation plans for bases, infrastructure and training areas.
While the above relates to matters that are primarily internal of defence as an organisation, the DEES recognises that climate change has emerged as a threat multiplier that knows no borders, potentially affecting the frequency, scale, and complexity of future missions and is contributing to the complexity of the global security environment.
Given Canada’s location, the Arctic region is critical as ‘the international crossroads where issues of climate change, international trade, and global security meet’. With climate-induced warming leading to more widespread sea-ice-free conditions in the Arctic and Atlantic Oceans, combined with technological call advancements, these conditions are leading to increased activity in the Arctic that changes safety and security demands.
Finally, as we have seen over the past 18 months, climate change significantly affects the frequency, duration and intensity of many climate-related hazards across the nation. This includes significant floods, wildfires, extreme heat, droughts and other extreme weather events that threaten the safety of Canadians and the fundamental functioning of infrastructure and service delivery. It is increasingly being recognised that defence must maintain the capacity to respond to these emergencies, including engaging in rapid disaster response and contributing to effective search and rescue operations when needed.
As the DEES enters its mid-term in 2022, these are just some of the challenges associated with climate as an increasingly important issue for DND and CAF.
Greg is a Senior Associate at BMT and leads the firm’s global campaign related to climate risk and resilience. Based in Brisbane, Australia, Greg has over 25 years of experience in natural hazard and climate change planning and adaptation studies with planning, transport, and conservation authorities.
As part of a series of articles on Climate and Defence, BMT is taking a closer look to see how Defence Agencies and Defence Forces are approaching and addressing climate change risks and opportunities; here, we examine the situation in the UK.
As part of a series of articles on Climate and Defence, BMT is taking a closer look to see how Defence Agencies and Defence Forces are approaching and addressing climate change risks and opportunities. This second article examines the situation in Australia and the broader Asia Pacific region.
We explore how defence agencies and military organisations prepare to address climate change issues.
It is increasingly recognised by defence forces around the world that climate change poses an increasing threat to peace and security in the world. Its impacts can undermine livelihoods, increase involuntary migration, and reduce the ability of states to provide security.