Ottawa’s emissions targets for fertilizer use are unrealistic, says industry report – National
A new industry-led report suggests Canadian farmers may only be able to achieve only half of the federal government’s target of 30 percent reduction in fertilizer emissions by 2030.
The report, commissioned by Fertilizer Canada and the Canola Council of Canada, examines the effect a 30 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from the use of nitrogen-based fertilizers on Canadian farms would have on crop yields and the financial viability of farms. .
The report concludes that while it may be possible to achieve a 14 percent reduction in fertilizer emissions by 2030, reaching 30 percent “is not realistically achievable without imposing significant costs on Canadian crop producers and potentially the financial health of the Canadian crop.” manufacturing sector.”
“I believe what (this report) says the 30 percent reduction target is not achievable without jeopardizing production and exports, and we’ve been saying that all along,” said Tom Steve, general manager of the Alberta Wheat and Barley Commissions.
“It was an arbitrary goal set somewhere in the government with no way of achieving it.”
Ottawa first set its 30 percent target for fertilizer emissions reductions by the end of 2020, as part of the federal government’s overall climate change plan, and recently concluded a months-long consultation process on the matter.
According to the government, fertilizer use on Canadian farms increased by 71 percent between 2005 and 2019. Over the same period, emissions of nitrogen oxide (a greenhouse gas 365 times more potent, from a global warming perspective) increased 54 percent in Canada over the same period. In 2019 alone, according to the government, the application of nitrogen fertilizer resulted in 12.75 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions – the equivalent of the emissions of 3.9 million passenger cars.
The government has said the 30 percent target is a target, not a mandatory enforceable target. It has also said it believes the target is achievable, as many of the required technologies and practices to reduce emissions from fertilizer use already exist.
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Still, farmers have warned that the goal is too ambitious, especially at a time when Canada’s agribusiness is being asked to produce more to address global food security fears.
“It’s really diverted our attention from what’s needed in our industry, which is to become more efficient, productive and competitive,” said Steve. “Most farmers are already doing what they can to reduce their fertilizer use — it’s their most expensive input.”
Karen Proud, president and chief executive of Fertilizer Canada, said there are already some industry-accepted best practices when it comes to fertilizer management. This includes using the right fertilizer for the soil, but also applying it at the right time of year and in the right quantities.
By helping more farmers become aware of these practices and encourage them to adopt them, Proud said, the industry could potentially achieve a 14 percent reduction in emissions by 2030. While that’s an aggressive target, she said, it would strike a balance between environmental needs and the need to further increase food production in the future.
Proud said going beyond a 14 percent reduction by 2030 would not be economically viable, as many of the changes required — such as working with a certified crop consultant or doing soil testing — are costly to the farmer.
“We need to empower farmers to increase their productivity to offset the cost of implementing these best practices,” she said. “The only way to do that is to have them increase the yield, otherwise the math won’t work. You cannot ask farmers to invest in practices at a loss.”
In February of this year, the federal government announced funding of up to $182.7 million for 12 recipient organizations to deliver the On-Farm Climate Action Fund across Canada. Through the fund, Canadian farmers are eligible to receive direct support for environmental best practices, including nitrogen fertilizer management, soil sampling and analysis, and modifications to field fertilizer application equipment.
Canada has set a goal of achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. According to the federal government, the agricultural sector has generated approximately 10 percent of Canada’s total greenhouse gas emissions annually since 1990.