Ministers tackle carbon emission issue

The federal and provincial governments will take another six months to hammer out carbon pricing details as Canada works to meet its international commitment to reduce greenhouse gases.


Prime minister Justin Trudeau and the premiers met last week in Vancouver but could not agree on the federal proposal for a national minimum carbon price, which was one of Trudeau’s election promises.


Canada’s target, as established by the previous Conservative government and agreed to at the Paris climate change conference in December, is a 30 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions below 2005 levels by 2030.


Saskatchewan premier Brad Wall is strongly opposed to a carbon tax and says the province is tackling emissions problems through its carbon capture project at the coal-fired power plant at Estevan.


However, other provinces already have carbon taxes in place or are in the processing of implementing them.


British Columbia has had a carbon price of $30 per tonne for several years, with some exemptions on fuel for farmers. Alberta will impose a tax of $20 per tonne beginning Jan. 1, 2017, and in-crease that to $30 a year later.


In a communique issued March 3, the ministers agreed to establish four groups to tackle the issues: clean technology, innovation and jobs; carbon pricing mechanisms adapted to each province’s specific circumstances; specific mitigation opportunities; and adaptation and climate resilience.


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The groups will report back at another meeting in October.


The effects of climate change and carbon taxes on Canadian agriculture are in the discussion mix, although there are no specific targets.


Hugo Morand, a senior policy analyst in Agriculture Canada’s environment division, said agriculture accounted for 12 percent of global emissions in 2012, but it increases to 25 percent when deforestation associated with agriculture is included.


The highest agricultural emitters are China, India, Brazil, the European Union, the United States and Australia.


“Canada accounts for only one percent of global agricultural emissions,” Morand told the Can-adian Federation of Agriculture annual meeting.


Most agricultural emissions come from methane and nitrous oxide, but all emissions are ex-pressed in carbon dioxide equivalents. Measurements can be uncertain, depending on what is included, he said.


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Emissions can refer to strictly crop and animal production, crop and animal production plus on-farm fuel use, or crop and animal production and on-farm fuel use plus or minus emissions or removals associated with land use, Morand said.


Canada’s total emissions were 726 million tonnes in 2013. Agriculture’s 75 million tonnes come manure application, fertilizer application, crop residue decomposition, cultivation and enteric fermentation, which is the normal digestive process of ruminant animals.


“When you look at Canadian agricultural emissions over time, the overall impression is one of relative stability,” Morand said.


Emissions have been managed through innovations such as no-till on the Prairies.


“Projected emissions to 2030 are not significantly higher than 2005 levels, and therefore agriculture’s potential contribution to Canada’s 30 percent reduction target might be limited in absolute terms compared with what other sectors might contribute,” he said.


He also said the rate at which agricultural soil stored carbon in 2005 is higher than what it is projected to be in 2030.


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