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Canada will play key roles in honing NATO’s innovation edge and developing its response to climate change.

At the three-day NATO summit in Madrid, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Canadian officials are expected to outline Canada’s drive to launch DIANA – the Defence Innovation Accelerator for the North Atlantic – as well as NATO’s Climate Change and Security Centre of Excellence.

The Canadian initiatives come as Sweden and Finland reached a breakthrough agreement with Turkey that will allow the two historically neutral Nordic countries, both fearful of Russian aggression, to join NATO. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had opposed the fast-track admission for weeks, accusing them of supporting Turkish militant groups, especially the PKK – the Kurdistan Workers’ Party – which Turkey, along with Canada, the United States and the European Union, considers a terrorist group.

On Tuesday, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg largely devoted the summit’s opening public forum to the threats of climate change. He announced a 45-per-cent emissions reduction goal for NATO’s operations by 2030, and net-zero by 2050. “It won’t be easy but it can be done,” he said.

DIANA and NATO’s climate centre will each have offices in Canada, though their precise locations were not known on Tuesday, the opening day of the three-day summit. Toronto or Montreal seem the most likely spots for their headquarters.

NATO announced the formation of DIANA in April, but gave scant details of the effort and said only that “Canada is actively looking at hosting the North American regional office.” The alliance has already decided that Britain and Estonia will jointly host DIANA’s European office.

The launch of DIANA marks a novel move by NATO, melding the alliance’s defence and tech personnel with tech companies and science researchers. The centre and its associates will have access to dozens of tech accelerators and test sites among NATO countries.

Innovations to make NATO forces more adaptable to climate change will be one DIANA project. For example, the alliance wants batteries that can work efficiently in very hot climates and uniforms that can keep soldiers comfortable in extreme temperatures.

Artificial intelligence, big-data processing, quantum-enabled technologies, biotechnology and new materials are other areas DIANA will focus on.

“Working with the private sector and academia, allies will ensure that we can harness the best of new technology for transatlantic security,” Mr. Stoltenberg said in April.

DIANA will be backed by a novel fund, worth €1-billion (the equivalent of almost $1.4-billion), that NATO bills as the first multi-sovereign venture capital fund, one that would thrust the alliance into the tech investment market.

Startup tech companies would be eligible for US$200,000 from the fund over a one-year period, said a Canadian defence official, who did not want to be identified because he is not authorized to speak to the media.

So far, 24 of NATO’s 30 member states have agreed to contribute to the fund. Canada is not yet among the contributors. The reasons behind its lack of enrolment were not known on Tuesday. Canada historically has been a laggard on defence spending. NATO wants member states to contribute the equivalent of 2 per cent of GDP to defence. NATO estimates the Canadian figure this year will be only 1.27 per cent.

Neither Canadian officials at the NATO mission in Brussels nor Canada’s Defence Minister could be reached for comment on Tuesday.

At the public forum on Tuesday, Mr. Stoltenberg identified climate change as one of the important threats the alliance faces. Climate change is a “crisis multiplier” that can trigger conflicts, he said.

He wants NATO’s member states to reduce the carbon emissions of their militaries by using renewable fuels instead of oil; launch an assessment on how climate change, such as rising water levels, might impair naval bases and other crucial military sites; and ramp up climate monitoring and tracking systems to identify the regions most at risk to extreme drought, forest fires and famine.

Canada, through the Department of National Defence and Global Affairs Canada, had lobbied NATO to establish the Climate Change and Security Centre of Excellence for some time. NATO approved the concept, which Mr. Trudeau unveiled at the 2021 NATO summit, last month.

The site will be funded by Canada, though individual NATO countries will pay to send their climate experts to the Canadian site. The cost of establishing the office has not been revealed.

In a May news release, Ottawa said the centre “will be a platform though which both military actors and civilians will develop, enhance and share knowledge on climate change security impacts. It will also allow participants to work together to build required capabilities and best practices and contribute to NATO’s goal of reducing the climate impact of our military activities.”

Mr. Stoltenberg spoke about using fuels such as hydrogen to power military machinery. He said NATO could not lag other countries’ net-zero goals. “It would not be good for the military if we remain the only fossil fuel sector in the world,” he said.

NATO has about 30 centres of excellence scattered among member states. Canada contributes to half a dozen of them, including the cyberdefence centre in Estonia, which provides support to Ukraine in its war with Russia, and the strategic communications centre in Latvia.

The text of the memorandum of understanding that would allow Sweden and Finland to join NATO, a move that would shore up the alliance’s relatively weak northeastern flank, was not published late on Tuesday, so it was not immediately known what concessions, if any, the two countries made to break Turkey’s resistance.

“I am delighted to conclude this stage on Finland’s road to NATO membership,” a statement from the Finnish President’s office said. “I now look forward to fruitful conversations on Finland’s role in NATO with our future Allies here in Madrid.”

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