New fighter jets will miss 2025 climate target, military decarbonization plan needed now

Published by Brent Patterson on

On August 5, the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives released a new report titled Leading the way? A critical assessment of the federal Greening Government Strategy.

The federal government is responsible for 2,128 kilotonnes (kt) of carbon pollution each year, a figure that has been increasing since 2015.

DND = 59% of federal government emissions

The CCPA report specifies: “The Department of National Defence [DND] alone accounted for 59% of federal emissions in 2019–20.”

It also notes that the sub-category of “security operation” emissions increased by 12% in the 2005-19 period to 951 kt [45% of total federal government emissions] and specifies: “Aviation emissions accounted for 62% of the category total in 2019–20.”

Fighter jets exempt from 2025 emission reduction plan

“The most obvious and serious challenge is the outsized contribution of national security operations to federal government emissions. The [Department of National Defence is] exempt from key commitments in the Greening Government Strategy [of reducing emissions by 40% below 2005 levels by 2025]. Specifically, while [DND is] beholden to the 2025 target for facilities and administrative fleets, their operational fleets [i.e., the air force] are only subject to the 2050 target [of net zero emissions].”

Fighter jet contract to be signed in 2022

The report also notes that the Department of National Defence is required to develop a decarbonization plan by 2023 for its operations. This is the year after it is expected to commit $76.8 billion to a new fleet of 88 carbon-intensive fighter jets.

“To date, the government’s approach in this area has been to focus on lower-carbon fuels. For example, Budget 2021 included $228 million toward a new Low-Carbon Fuel Procurement program for air and marine fleets. Although this approach will likely lead to incremental reductions in security related emissions, the government has not committed to moving away from fossil fuel-powered security fleets more broadly.”

Militarism and the COP26 climate summit

World Beyond War has explained: “As a result of final-hour demands made by the U.S. government during negotiation of the 1997 Kyoto treaty, military greenhouse gas emissions were exempted from climate negotiations. The 2015 Paris Agreement left cutting military greenhouse gas emissions to the discretion of individual nations.”

The CCPA adds: “The U.S. and most of Canada’s other NATO partners haven’t made any serious commitments to reduce (or even to report on) national security emissions.”

The World Beyond War petition asks COP26 to set strict greenhouse gas emissions limits that make no exception for militarism, include transparent reporting requirements and independent verification, and do not rely on schemes to “offset” emissions.

While the Department of National Defence is required to develop a decarbonization plan by 2023, the urgency of the climate crisis and the imminent signing of a contract in 2022 for new fighter jets suggests that plan should be completed by the COP26 summit taking place November 1-12 this year.

With Canada’s national security operations exempt from Canada’s 2025 emissions reduction target, the first delivery of the new fighter jets in the mid-2020s with their “full operational capability” in the early-2030s, it does not appear credible that the Royal Canadian Air Force would meet the 2050 target of net zero emissions.

The iPolitics article on the CCPA’s report can also be read here.

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