Saskatchewan’s carbon credit system inches forward

The province anticipates having a system in place by 2021 that is expected to pay producers for sequestering carbon

The Saskatchewan government is developing a carbon credit system that will likely provide an additional revenue stream for producers who practise no-till.

The system is still being worked on, but aggregator companies have begun encouraging producers about the possible benefits of being paid to sequester carbon in the soil.

“Agriculture is trying to do its part to reduce greenhouse gas emissions around the world and we are part of that,” said Bill Dorgan, a business unit leader with Trimble, an aggregator company that provides carbon credits to farmers.

“We would expect a protocol to be based on good agronomy, soil sustainability and all of the buzzwords. All it does is promote good agricultural practices,” Dorgan said.

Trimble recently reached out to producers via email, telling them they will soon be eligible to earn money by documenting sustainability practices.

Trimble pays farmers who sequester carbon through a carbon credit system. Those credits are then sold to large emitters, like electricity and oil and gas companies, which allows them to offset their own carbon emissions.

Trimble largely works with producers in Alberta, which has had a carbon credit system in place for more than 10 years. It has applied to producers who farm using sustainable practices, such as no-till.

Dorgan said Alberta producers who participate in the system have overall received about $40 million over the last few years. Depending on the soil zone, producers can see returns of $1 to $2 per acre per year, he said.

“It’s not huge money on a per acre basis, but it’s good,” he said. “Everything helps.”

Saskatchewan is currently working on creating a protocol, with plans to implement a system by 2021.

It’s part of its Prairie Resilience Climate Change Strategy, an initiative that aims to make the province resilient to climate change.

According to the resilience report, agriculture represented 25 percent of Saskatchewan’s emissions in 2015. The largest emitter was oil and gas at 32 percent.

There are no details yet on what the protocol will look like, but it will include the agricultural sector’s efforts to sequester carbon in the soil.

Kyle McDonald, the manager of compliance assurance with the climate change branch, said the government has been doing lots of scientific research and analysis to determine the carbon sequestration rate and to measure the amount of carbon.

“One of the important things is having a credible system,” McDonald said. “You end up getting a high-quality carbon credit, which is what buyers are after.”

He said he suspects aggregator companies, like Trimble, would likely be able to operate in the province.

The companies collect information on behalf of producers, and would be able to pool their credits. Such tasks aren’t usually feasible for smaller projects.

Dorgan said Trimble will help generate data from this year’s crop in Saskatchewan. He suspects the system will emulate Alberta’s, with carbon rates and amounts varying depending on the soil zone.

He said the protocols have been successful in Alberta, given money continues to be returned to farmers.

“Agriculture contributes 12 to 13 percent of global emissions, and the sector has been trying really hard to mitigate some of those emissions,” he said.

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