It’s going to cost a lot more to bring down Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions if the country doesn’t get farmers onside, the Parliamentary Budget Office warned last week.
About 11% of Canada’s GHG emissions come from agriculture of all kinds, from livestock to wheat fields to nursery stock. Some farm operations are inherently emissions-intensive (looking at you, beef). But others have the potential to contribute significantly to removing carbon safely from the atmosphere, at the same time making soils more fertile and water-retentive during droughts. (See here, here, and here.)
Mishandled, however, warming soils could also generate a “potentially disastrous feedback mechanism” of carbon releases from the accelerated decay of organic matter in soil. (A related threat is from similar feedbacks from rapidly melting permafrost zones.)
Nonetheless, PBO analyst Pierre Bagnoli told the Senate’s agriculture and forestry committee that neither the federal climate change plan nor the plans of the four largest provinces require the farm sector to reduce emissions at the same pace as other sectors.
“By leaving out agriculture,” he told the committee, “you’re missing potentially inexpensive things that you could do within agriculture, and making them more expensive outside of agriculture.”
A report by the Parliamentary Budget Office a year ago found that “one of the cheapest ways to reduce emissions would be to repurpose lands that have outlived their use as land for crops,” iPolitics reports. Motivating rural landowners could be accomplished for around $10 per tonne of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e)—the low level at which Canada’s federal floor price for carbon is scheduled to kick in next year.
“For comparison,” iPolitics writes, citing PBO data, “it would take $100 per tonne of CO2e to get the transportation sector to use more hybrid technologies and lightweight materials.”
Responding to an iPolitics query, Environment and Climate Change Canada said some of the $2-billion Low Carbon Economy Fund the government has promised may go toward lowering farm-sector emissions. A spokesperson for Minister Catherine McKenna said parts of the Pan-Canadian Framework for Clean Growth and Climate Change, along with a federal-provincial Canadian Agricultural Partnership signed last summer, will also address the issue.