Mr. Darren Fisher (Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, Lib.)
Madam Speaker, I will be sharing my time with my good friend, the hon. member for Saanich—Gulf Islands.
I am pleased to rise in the House today to tell members more about what the Department of National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces are doing to address the growing threats posed by a changing climate.
Last October, the Pentagon released a report, stating unequivocally that climate change effects are a national security issue, with potential impacts to U.S. Department of Defense missions, operational plans and installations. We are well aware that, in Canada, those same effects also impact our own national security.
That is why this government has prioritized Canada's response to climate change. All departments are working to advance our federal sustainable development strategy. Canada's defence policy, “Strong, Secure, Engaged”, goes a long way to supporting those sustainability goals and mitigating emerging security risks posed by climate change.
The defence team understands that the impact of a changing environment and their impact on it should not be underestimated. By building environment and climate change considerations into all of their planning, procurement and operations, the defence team ensures they are doing their part to safeguard the environment and citizens of the planet. There can be no doubt that climate change poses a real threat to security, whether national, hemispheric or global.
The Americas are also seeing an increase in the severity of natural disasters, and this is something that Canada is working with regional partners to address. Last year, the defence minister hosted a working group on environmental protection and climate resilience in advance of the biennial Conference of Defense Ministers of the Americas. CDMA is the only forum that brings together defence ministers from across the hemispheres to discuss regional security issues at a strategic level. In fact, climate has been on that agenda for several years now.
At the same conference in 2014, then U.S. defense secretary, Chuck Hagel, said: “Climate change is a 'threat multiplier' because it has the potential to exacerbate many of the challenges we already confront today-from infectious disease to armed insurgencies-and to produce new challenges in the future.” That is exactly what we have been seeing.
Over the past few years, the Canadian Armed Force's role in domestic disaster response has increased dramatically. Last December, the chief of defence staff, General Vance, told reporter Mercedes Stephenson that there are very few large military threats to Canada. By contrast, he said this of Canada's disaster response, “We face a significant threat almost every year now with natural disasters, forest fires and floods and so on that affect Canadians. So in our role to defend Canada and protect Canadians, that's been significant.”
Climate change has resulted in more extreme weather, which in turn produces more severe storms and natural disasters. The Canadian Armed Forces tracks these storms, floods and fires carefully to ensure they are ready to help Canadians whenever they are called upon, through Operation LENTUS. The reserve units play an important role in this and have responded rapidly in their local communities on many occasions.
In 2018 alone, the Canadian Armed Forces were called in to assist provincial partners in responding to six natural disasters, including floods, forest fires and winter storms. More pointedly, in the last five years, the Canadian Armed Forces responded to 20 natural disasters in contrast to the four years prior when they were called upon only to help out with five. The recent flooding in Ontario, Quebec and New Brunswick saw another 2,500 sailors, soldiers and aviators step in once more to help protect people, homes and critical infrastructure in those communities. In other words, at the peak of these floods, the number of Canadian Armed Forces personnel deployed on Operation LENTUS actually surpassed the number of Canadian Armed Forces members currently deployed around the world.
Looking to the north, climate change has made the Arctic more accessible, and it is being increasingly used for transit. The region also holds vast natural resources, which give it great strategic value for Canada and a number of international actors. All this translates into the risk of sovereignty challenges, environmental problems, accidents giving rise to search and rescue requirements, and possibly criminal activity. The Canadian Rangers are Canada's eyes and ears of the north. Their presence in communities across the north is instrumental in the conduct of Arctic sovereignty operations, as well as search and rescue activities.
As climate change continues to influence the Canadian Armed Forces' operating space, the defence team is acutely aware of the need to mitigate the causes of environmental degradation. The Department of National Defence has already reduced greenhouse gas emissions from its buildings and the commercial vehicle fleet by 31% from 2005 levels. The department is on track to reduce its emissions by 40% by 2030 and is moving toward meeting the new federal target of 80% by 2050. As the largest infrastructure portfolio with over 20,000 buildings, the Department of National Defence produces nearly half of the federal government's greenhouse gas emissions, so it knows it has an important role to play in enabling Canada to meet its climate objectives.
In terms of powering the military fleet, reliable, low-carbon and renewable fuels are not 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. That is why the military fleet remains exempt from federal GHG emissions reduction targets, but the defence team does not interpret this as a free pass from achieving a more sustainable fleet. On the contrary, the department is tracking fleet emissions and partnering with industry on research into the sustainable fuels of the future. More importantly, it is testing sustainable energy solutions and new technologies in the field, working to limit energy use at deployed camps.
Since 2017, the Department of National Defence has also invested more than $165 million in infrastructure projects aimed at reducing its carbon footprint. In the past year alone, the department has built armouries at Halifax, Saint-Hubert and Sainte-Foy to ensure Canadian Armed Forces members have the modern, green facilities they need. All new construction and major recapitalization projects must meet industry-recognized standards for high-performing buildings, such as the LEED silver standard or equivalent.
The Department of National Defence also uses energy performance contracts to improve energy efficiency and awarded four new contracts at bases and wings across Canada since 2018. These kinds of investments have a significant impact. DND and the Canadian Armed Forces have made progress in minimizing the environmental impact of defence activities and will continue to act as responsible stewards of Canada's land, air and sea.
We cannot deny that climate change has become a daily reality for all of us. Each day, we see more evidence of its impact on our collective safety and security. As I mentioned earlier, the Canadian Armed Forces have responded to nearly four times as many natural disasters since 2014 as they had in the previous four years. That is why they are working so hard to contribute to a greener world. Like most Canadians, they know that our efforts must start now, so that in 50 years our children and grandchildren can enjoy a cleaner and brighter future.
Topic: Government Orders
Subtopic: The Environment