Carbon policies spur ag sector to form bio-sector coalition

Federal and provincial carbon pricing policies, current and pending, have prompted more than 75 agriculture industry leaders and organizations to plan a “bio-offset hub” designed to lead the way on biological emissions reductions.

The Coalition on Offset Solutions has members from crop and livestock groups, as well as agribusiness, government, non-government organizations, universities and First Nations.

Karen Haugen-Kozyra, president of Viresco Solutions, is one of the organizers.

“The opportunity for agriculture, the bio-based sectors, to generate carbon credits is evolving,” she said.

“The coalition itself is about funding and investing in opportunities, platforms and systems so that we can realize more of the emission reduction opportunities from the bio-based sectors.”

As the provinces develop carbon reduction strategies as a result of federal government directives, Haugen-Kozyra said agricultural interests must be represented so they can derive credit for the solutions they offer.

“A lot of these technology roadmaps and all these funding envelopes that are going to cycle carbon pricing revenues somehow back into investments, they don’t have biosector representation on them,” she said, noting more input tends to come from the oil, gas and coal sectors. There’s not the voice of the biosector at the decision-making table.”

A bio-offset hub, once formed, could act as an advisory group to ensure that carbon-reducing strategies such as conservation farming could be used in offset arrangements with net carbon emitters.

Haugen-Kozyra listed farmland, wetlands, grasslands, forested ecosystems and organic waste as potential players in offset strategies.

Alberta has had a carbon offset policy for years and the NDP government has also imposed a carbon tax of $20 per tonne for the next two years.

But other prairie provinces have yet to devise a system to meet the Liberal government’s plan to establish a national floor price of $10 per tonne on carbon in 2018. That amount will rise to $50 per tonne by 2022.

Figures from Haugen-Kozyra suggest that Canada’s biological sector “represents more than 30 percent of the nation’s carbon reduction potential.”

She thinks Canada could thus be a world leader in carbon offset strategies and Alberta initiatives could be a crucial part of that.

Bill Dorgan of Agri-Trend Aggregation agreed. He worked with Feedlot Health Management Services in Alberta to develop the first beef carbon offset project that directed money back to participating feedlots.

“It’s an opportunity for everybody involved in the sustainability part of agriculture to put out to the world what we’re doing in terms of climate change,” said Dorgan.

Mitigation of emissions in feedlots was a groundbreaking project, he said, and an example of what the agricultural sector can accomplish in terms of greenhouse gas emission reduction and the use of offsets.

“Agriculture can be a major player.”

Dorgan acknowledged that some farmers look askance at climate change initiatives but that debate is unproductive.

“What I will do, though, is commercialize the opportunities under this legislation and bring some benefit to some people who want to volunteer their efforts and time.”

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