Keystone Agricultural Agricultural Producers (KAP) is fine tuning its carbon pricing policy even though Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister declined to sign a national framework to fight climate change at a federal provincial meeting in Ottawa Dec. 9.
“It doesn’t change anything with our approach and what we are looking for in the system,” KAP president Dan Mazier said in an interview Dec. 15. “On that file it is business as usual and we’re going to keep working on it.”
That’s because KAP believes Manitoba will eventually sign the agreement, as all other provinces have done, except Saskatchewan.
Pallister has said as much, but he has a quid pro quo — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau needs to hold a first ministers meeting on health care funding.
Since 2011 the federal government has increased annual health funding by six per cent a year. That policy set by the previous Conservative government ends March 31, 2017. Then funding is tied to the GDP growth or a minimum of three per cent.
“A three per cent increase is not sustainable,” the Winnipeg Free Press reported Pallister as saying.
“We remain hopeful that the same kind of focused commitment we saw today (Dec. 9) on addressing climate change at the first ministers table will be evident in our discussions on health,” Pallister said in a press release. “We will wait and see. Our answer (on signing the agreement) therefore remains — not yet.”
Although the federal government wants each province to design its own plan, Trudeau has vowed to impose a carbon price if they don’t.
The Paris agreement on climate change, which Canada ratified along with the United States, China, India, the European Union and many others, took effect Nov. 4.
Signing countries are legally bound to hold global warming to no more than 2 C above pre-industrial levels. To do so countries will have to cut greenhouse gas emissions. Scientists say if the 2 C threshold is exceeded climate change will likely be disastrous and irreversible.
Canada has agreed to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 30 per cent from 2005 levels by 2030. To that end the federal government will impose a $10 a tonne price on carbon starting in 2018, rising to $50 by 2022.
Pallister, who has said climate change is real and needs to be addressed, has promised a ‘made-in-Manitoba’ program.
“Consultations are ongoing as we develop a made-in-Manitoba plan that will reflect our specific environmental circumstances and meet our province’s economic needs,” a spokesman for Agriculture Minister Ralph Eichler said in an email Dec. 14. “I can tell you that we look forward to releasing more info about Manitoba’s climate action plan in the first quarter of 2017.”
KAP wants farmers exempted from paying a price on any carbon emitted directly from agricultural production, Mazier said. Direct emissions include those from burning fossil fuels and applying fertilizer to produce food or fibre, as well as methane from livestock.
However, farmers would pay indirectly when buying products or services, such as nitrogen fertilizer, because carbon prices paid by manufacturers would presumably be passed on.
KAP also wants some of the revenue from carbon pricing recycled to help farmers cut carbon emissions, sequester carbon and develop more climate-hardy crops.
KAP also wants to be sure carbon pricing doesn’t make Manitoba farmers uncompetitive, Mazier said. Eighty per cent of Manitoba farm production is exported and competes against production where carbon isn’t priced, he said.
Pallister and Eichler have said they don’t want to make the province’s farmer uncompetitive either, Mazier added.
“That is why we are at the table,” he said. “We’ve got to come up with some solution that works — and works within the pan-Canadian framework.
“Everything is on the table right now.
“I am very confident that we are building a very good case (for agriculture).”
According to KAP agriculture accounts for about 40 per cent of Manitoba’s greenhouse gas emissions, including carbon. Most of it is from crop production, including emissions related to fertilizer use and methane produced by livestock.
Agriculture’s contribution is high because Manitoba has few other large emitters. Most of its electricity is generated by hydro dams instead of burning fossil fuels, for example.
Although agriculture produces lots of greenhouse gas, it’s also the only industry that sequesters carbon, Mazier said. That’s done with forage crops and pastures.
“We all know in agriculture we are doing the right thing,” he said.
“Yet we do need to adapt. We know the environment is changing. This is why we are looking at it from a more holistic approach putting us in the right direction where we are reducing our carbon in agriculture but yet enhancing the environment at the same time.”