International energy report has consequences for producers

Released this month, the report lists 400 actions that will need to be taken to reach net-zero emissions by 2050, an ambitious goal set by world leaders in Europe and the United States. | Screencap via iea.org

The International Energy Agency’s report on reducing greenhouse gas emissions to achieve global targets bolsters the case more needs to be done in agriculture to combat climate change.

Producers, as the report noted, can’t be excluded from that effort.

Released this month, the report lists 400 actions that will need to be taken to reach net-zero emissions by 2050, an ambitious goal set by world leaders in Europe and the United States.

In broad terms, greenhouse gases from all sources have to drop to achieve these ambitious climate targets.

Already experts and environmentalists are warning the international community and individual countries, including Canada, are failing to match rhetoric with actions to reduce emissions.

The recommendation that got the most attention was the call to end new investments in coal mines, as well as in oil and gas wells.

Other calls of note involved eliminating the internal combustion engine from passenger vehicles by 2035 and significantly increasing the deployment of wind and solar energy.

Taken as a whole, the report is yet another glass of cold water being thrown at anyone still sleeping on the serious efforts needed to fight climate change.

Of course, agriculture has a role to play in the fight and the authors of the report know it.

Agriculture is a distant second, but still second, to the energy sector in accounting for the world’s total GHG emissions.

Increasing soil carbon levels, the report’s authors say, is one way to limit emissions.

In March, Canada began drafting regulations for a carbon market that would involve offset credit for “enhanced soil organic carbon.”

Protocols for this will look at the “adoption of sustainable agricultural land management activities to reduce emissions and enhance carbon sequestration in soils.”

It is a good sign Canada is already developing these protocols, but the efforts in agriculture to fight climate change cannot stop here.

The IEA says non-CO2 emissions from livestock, along with other agricultural emissions, “might be more difficult to mitigate given the link between livestock production and nitrous oxide and methane emissions.”

Technological developments, including changes to animal feed, could, the authors say, help reduce emissions, but still, “it may be necessary to use afforestation to offset these emissions entirely.”

Another way to offset those emissions suggested by the authors?

Reducing demand for livestock products.

The IEA doesn’t suggest people stop eating meat however.

Instead, they suggest reducing meat use in households with the highest levels of per capita consumption to what is now the global average. That would cut GHG emissions significantly, particularly if there is an expected corresponding drop in the amount of feed and pasture used.

Here, too, there is already some work being done in Canada.

It’s expected the carbon market will allow credit to be gained from livestock feed management, avoiding grassland conversion and managing manure.

For what it’s worth, lean meats are still considered a good source of protein in Canada’s Food Guide, despite some calls for red meat consumption to decrease.

While much of the attention in the report was paid to its implications on the energy sector, the consequences of fighting climate change are equally as real for those in agriculture.

Significant action will likely be expected in the industry.

The protocols being developed for the carbon market, and the investments made by Canada in its recent budget, are a good start, but efforts to beat climate change will continue to hinge on the world’s ability to react accordingly to reports such as this one.

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

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