Today the National Audit Office (NAO) reports that the Ministry of Defence (MoD) has made some headway in meeting its environmental sustainability objectives. However, there is room for the Department to improve its sustainability and do more to support government’s environmental agenda.

The MoD is critical to the government’s sustainability goals due to its size, supply chain, and the amount of land it controls. It will play a fundamental role in meeting the Greening Government Commitments (GGCs) since it is responsible for 50% of government greenhouse gas emissions reported against this target.1

The NAO finds that last year, the Department reported 830,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions – a 42% reduction since 2009-10, which means it has achieved its GGC target for reducing carbon emissions.2 The Department is in a good position to achieve other GGC targets for waste reduction and waste to landfill. However, it will struggle to meet those on waste recycling, the use of paper and reducing domestic flights.

Today’s report also shows that 1.8 million tonnes of emissions from military activity such as operating defence equipment fall outside the scope of the GGC targets, and these emissions are reducing at a slower rate.

The MoD’s energy mix has not changed significantly over the last 10 years, and the Department has made little progress in increasing the proportion of its energy drawn from renewable sources.

Further, the Department owns or otherwise controls approximately 1% of the UK’s land mass, and over a third (38%) of this area is designated as sites of special scientific interest (SSSIs). Natural England has assessed 48% of the Department’s English sites as in ‘favourable’ condition, comparing well to the English average of 39%. However, more than half of these have not been assessed since at least 2011 with concerns that this figure is no longer accurate.

This report has been produced for the Environmental Audit Committee. It sets out:

  • how the Department can support the Government’s environmental obligations;
  • the sustainability of the Department’s estates and infrastructure;
  • the role of sustainability in the Department’s procurement and supply chain; and
  • governance of sustainability within the Department.

Read the full report

Environmental Sustainability Overview

Notes for editors

Key facts

827,822 tonnes
the Ministry of Defence’s (the Department’s) greenhouse gas emissions in 2018-19 as reported for the Greening Government Commitments (GGCs) (carbon dioxide equivalent).


the Department’s share of central government’s GGC reported greenhouse gas emissions in 2017-18 (carbon dioxide equivalent).


reduction in the Department’s GGC reported greenhouse gas emissions since 2009-10 (carbon dioxide equivalent).


1.8 million tonnes
Departmental greenhouse gas emissions linked to defence operations in 2018-19 and excluded from GGC reporting (carbon dioxide equivalent).


reduction in the Department’s non-GGC greenhouse gas emissions since 2015-16 (GGC emissions reduced by 26% in the same period) (carbon dioxide equivalent).


Not known
future greenhouse gas emissions the Department has committed to in its current 10-year plan for equipment procurement and support.


Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) on Departmental land (3.5% of Great Britain total).


Departmental SSSIs in ‘favourable’ condition when last assessed, against the English average of 39%.


number of ultra-low-emission vehicles (ULEVs), such as electric vehicles, the Department needs to be using by December 2022 to meet government targets.


number of ULEVs the Department currently leases, of which 10 are electric.


1. The Greening Government Commitments are the actions UK government departments and their agencies will take to reduce their impacts on the environment in the period 2016 to 2020.

2. The GGCs set a target for the Department to reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions by 39.9% from 2010 levels.

3. The National Audit Office (NAO) helps Parliament hold government to account for the way it spends public money. It is independent of government and the civil service. The Comptroller and Auditor General (C&AG), Gareth Davies, is an Officer of the House of Commons and leads the NAO. The C&AG certifies the accounts of all government departments and many other public sector bodies. He has statutory authority to examine and report to Parliament on whether government is delivering value for money on behalf of the public, concluding on whether resources have been used efficiently, effectively and with economy. The NAO identifies ways that government can make better use of public money to improve people's lives. It measures this impact annually. In 2018 the NAO's work led to a positive financial impact through reduced costs, improved service delivery, or other benefits to citizens, of £539 million.

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