A 14% reduction in Canada’s agriculture industry’s greenhouse gas emissions from nitrogen fertilizers can be reduced by 14% without compromising food security, says new report, but government’s 30% target is ‘unrealistic’ .
Canada’s Agriculture and Agri-Food Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau announced a target last year to reduce greenhouse gas emissions associated with fertilizers by 30% below 2020 levels. by 2030.
The government’s target has led some – including industry players and farmers – to question whether such reduction in emissions is achievable without reducing fertilizer use and therefore impacting on yields.
They also expressed concern about the added pressure to increase production to fill the void in the international market during the war in Ukraine.
The new report, commissioned by Fertilizer Canada and the Canola Council of Canada, calls the 30% target “unrealistic” but says it could meet almost half that target, to 14%, while increasing returns.
“With reasonable adoption of these more advanced practices, we estimated we could reach 14%,” Fertilizer Canada President and CEO Karen Proud said in an interview with CTVNews.ca. “It actually helps increase yields, which is a very, very important part of the overall picture.”
Proud said the report aims to use “scientific rigor” to determine what level of emissions is possible, while applying best practices from Fertilizer Canada, its 4R stewardship program, “at the most advanced level.”
Proud said that while the report sees no way to meet even half of the government’s target, the 14% is still cause for optimism.
“It shows there’s still room to move,” Proud said. “And it’s not an insignificant reduction in emissions; this is still very important, while allowing Canadian farmers to do their part when it comes to food productivity and global food security. I was really, really happy to see how far we still think we can go. »
Bibeau wrote in an email to CTVNews.ca that she welcomes the report’s conclusion that further application of Fertilizer Canada’s 4Rs – the right source at the right rate, right time and right place – will help reduce shows.
“This program saves money, produces more and reduces emissions at the same time,” Bibeau wrote. “While this industry report focuses on its own nutrient management initiative, there are several other ways to meet the emissions target.”
She added that her government had invested in research and innovation to help farmers find other ways to reduce their emissions.
Following the announcement of the federal government’s emissions reduction target, many were quick to talk about a fertilizer ban. But Bibeau – and Proud – argue that’s not what it is.
“It’s absolutely not a fertilizer ban,” Bibeau said in an interview with CTVNews.ca. “It’s a strategy to reduce our emissions, because we desperately need to fight climate change, and farmers are the first to be affected by climate change.”
Proud said while the 30% target is ambitious, it is also voluntary, and the new report shows that significant progress can be made without reducing fertilizer use.
“There’s been a lot of misinformation floating around about what that goal was from the start, and we never suggested it was a fertilizer ban,” Proud said. “We have expressed concerns about the only way to achieve this by reducing the use of fertilizers, and I think the government is listening to that.”
“They have since made it very, very clear that their intention was not to require reductions in fertilizer use,” she added. “They made it clear that they support farmers who continue to increase yields and productivity, so I think that was very important.”
Proud said government, industry stakeholders and farmers need to be aware that there are not many growing seasons left until 2030, so it is critical they find the best way to implement sustainable practices whenever possible.
“I think the big challenge now is to engage in meaningful discussions with farmers, farmer groups and organizers such as us, to talk about how we really achieve this,” she said, adding that they needed to go beyond academics and help farmers break down barriers.
The government completed its consultations in late August to determine how best to achieve the emissions reduction target, and a report is expected in late fall with the results of those consultations.