According to a new report, it is possible to reduce Canada’s agricultural sector’s greenhouse gas emissions by 14% from nitrogen fertilizers without risking food security, but the government’s 30% target is “unrealistic.” .
Last year, Canada’s Food and Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau announced a target to reduce fertilizer-related greenhouse gas emissions to 30% below 2020 levels by 2030.
The government’s target has led some – including industry stakeholders and farmers – to raise concerns about whether such emissions reductions can be achieved without reducing fertilizer use, and thus affect productivity.
They also expressed concern about the growing pressure to increase production to fill the gap 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 be achieved by almost half, at 14%, while actually increasing production. .
“With the right adoption of these more advanced methods, we feel we could achieve 14%,” said Fertilizer Canada President and CEO Karen Proud in an interview with CTVNews.ca. . “It really allows for increased production, which is a very, very important part of the overall picture.”
Proud said the report aims to use “scientific literature” to figure out possible emissions levels, while applying Fertilizer Canada’s best practices, the 4R Management Program, “at the level the most advanced”.
Proud said while the report shows no way to achieve even half of the government’s target, 14% is still cause for optimism.
“It shows there is still room to move,” says Proud. “And this is not a negligible reduction in emissions; it remains vital, while allowing Canadian farmers to play their part when it comes to food productivity and food security globally. I’m really pleased to see how far we believe we can still go. “
Bibeau wrote in an email to CTVNews.ca, she welcomes the report’s conclusion that applying an additional 4Rs of Fertilizer Canada – the right source at the right rate, at the right time and in the right place – will help reduce emissions. waste.
“This program saves money, produces more and reduces emissions,” Bibeau writes. “While this industry report focuses on its own nutrient management initiative, there are a number of other ways to meet emissions targets.”
She added that her government has invested in research and innovation to help farmers find other ways to reduce their emissions.
After news of the federal government’s emissions reduction target, many were quick to call it a fertilizer ban. But Bibeau – and Proud – insist that is not the case.
“It’s not a fertilizer ban at all,” 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 cutting fertilizer use.
“There was a lot of misinformation about this target from the beginning and we never assumed it was a fertilizer ban,” says Proud. “We’ve raised concerns that the only way to achieve that is to reduce fertilizer use and I think the government is listening to that.”
“Since then, they have made it very clear that their intent is not to ask for a reduction in fertilizer use,” she added. “They have made it clear that they support farmers to continue to increase production and productivity, so I think that is very important.”
Proud said governments, industry stakeholders and farmers need to be aware that there are not many growing seasons left before 2030, so it is important for them to figure out how best to implement sustainable practices. as soon as possible.
“I think the big challenge right now is to engage in meaningful discussions with farmers, farm groups and organizers like ourselves, to talk about how we are actually making this happen. real,” she said, adding that they need to go beyond academia and help farmers remove barriers.
The government concluded its consultations at the end of August to figure out how best to achieve the emission reduction target, and a report is expected by the end of autumn with the results of those consultations. .