Canadian farmers already familiar with many climate solutions

The most potential for mitigating emissions from agriculture can be found in soil carbon sequestration (or carbon sinks). The IPCC estimates about 89 percent of mitigation potential can be achieved through this.
 | File photo

A new, particularly stark warning about climate change shows Canadian agriculture could be a lighthouse to other nations trying to mitigate greenhouse gasses.

Word that global warming is “widespread, rapid and intensifying” has likely spread across the country by now.

Yet another report, this one from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), warns that serious action is needed now.

A whole section of the report is dedicated to agricultural activity and its significant contribution to pollution.

Authors warn it is already too late to reverse certain impacts of global warming, like rising sea levels. However, heat waves causing droughts, and other negative effects, can still be avoided.

This fall, world leaders will meet at the UN to discuss how to better address climate change, including how it relates to agriculture.

United States president Joe Biden is leading a reinvigorated urgency to address the issue, adding to the anticipation that this year’s worldwide climate talks will result in a recommitment to slow global warming.

In releasing its latest report, the IPCC offers international leaders an expansive update on the state of global warming.

After outlining just how much (hint: a lot) agriculture pollutes, the IPCC said there are several ways to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions within the agricultural sector.

“The most prominent options are improved crop and grazing land management (improved agronomic practices, nutrient use, tillage, and residue management), restoration of organic soils that are drained for crop production and restoration of degraded lands,” the authors write.

Other, less impactful, options include better managing livestock and manure.

Canadian producers seeing that list likely feel pretty good. These practices are largely familiar.

But the most potential for mitigating emissions from agriculture can be found in soil carbon sequestration (or carbon sinks). The IPCC estimates about 89 percent of mitigation potential can be achieved through this.

Here, too, Canada is already making moves.

A protocol that speaks specifically to soil organic carbon is expected to be developed for Canada’s greenhouse gas offset system.

If it meets the to-be-determined criteria, Canadian producers could look to enter the carbon market through the “adoption of sustainable agricultural land management activities, which reduce emissions and enhance soil carbon sequestration on agricultural lands.”

Even in the absence of this fairly new protocol development, the idea of carbon sinks is already a familiar term for many producers.

Another highlight related to agriculture speaks to a continued need for technological development to be “a key driver ensuring the efficacy of additional mitigation measures in the future.”

Canada is already ahead of the curve in addressing climate change within agriculture, at least relative to large swaths of the global community. The latest IPCC report makes that clear.

On most key fronts raised in the agriculture section of the report, Canada at least has the ball rolling.

Trouble is, Canada’s contribution isn’t enough to stop the planet from warming, and these policies aren’t being applied around the world.

As a global industry, agriculture knows plenty of ways to mitigate emissions but does a bad job of implementing them. Efforts to slow global warming in Canada need to continuously scrutinized, but as other nations look to navigate the climate crisis, could producers around the world look to Canada for guidance?

D.C. Fraser is Glacier Farm Media’s Ottawa correspondent. Reach out to him by emailing dfraser@farmmedia.com.

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