Ottawa’s recently announced plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and increase the cost of carbon over the next 10 years was met with predictable outrage from many in the agriculture sector.
Already frustrated over having to pay for carbon uses, many farmers see the expanded plan as a crippling tax that ignores previous efforts made by the sector to become greener.
Raising the carbon backstop price to $170 a tonne by 2030, some producers say, will increase freight costs, create higher input prices and increase the cost of drying grain.
What critics of the policy fail to recognize is that the alternative – not fighting climate change – is no longer an option.
Governments need to take decisive action against climate change. This has been clear for a long time.
Farmers wanting credit for previously adopted green technologies need to recognize that despite those noble efforts, climate change still exists.
Running zero-till crop production operations is commendable, and it should be a badge of honour for those who adopted doing so long ago, but nothing more.
There is still a need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
The baseline used to begin cutting greenhouse gases can’t change to accommodate individual farmers who started practising more environmentally friendly technologies. It doesn’t matter what we’ve done to reduce greenhouse gases thus far.
It isn’t enough.
Agriculture is still a major polluter.
More needs to be done.
Producers should recognize this and start looking for the opportunities found in the federal plan.
Over 10 years, the federal government is offering millions of dollars in agriculture-related incentives to assist producers in reducing their greenhouse gas emissions.
A $98.4-million Natural Climate Solutions for Agriculture Fund and a $361-million program to preserve wetland and grassland areas boosting carbon sequestration are being made available.
Details of those programs aren’t yet available – but it is worth recognizing the significance of those amounts.
Opponents of the policy will have a tough time declining an opportunity to receive some of the money in that $459.4-million funding envelope. It’s also worth noting the federal government has committed to reinvest the money collected from carbon pricing back into the provinces where it is collected.
There is also room for exemptions. Provincial governments – like Alberta and Saskatchewan – are only subject to these federal plans because they have chosen not to implement adequate climate strategies of their own.
If they did, it would be entirely possible for them to offer a blanket exemption to agricultural producers, or more targeted ones, like excluding the cost of grain drying from carbon costs.
Their failure to do so has meant producer lobby groups have had to request federal government exemptions themselves, which has so far been unsuccessful (although the carbon price is not applied to gasoline and diesel fuel that’s burned in farm machinery).
It is also entirely possible Canada’s ambitious green agenda will help facilitate trade with green nations a decade or longer from now.
The climate emergency will continue to command countries view their trading relationships with an eye towards environmental sustainability.
President-elect Joe Biden is expected to do just this, and as the impacts of continued pollution become more apparent, more countries will follow suit.
There is also hope the Clean Fuel Standard in Canada will further promote the use of plant-based biofuels, which has the potential to be a huge boost to grain and oilseed producers.
Farmers are understandably concerned about the impact carbon pricing may have on their operations; but they need to recognize there is opportunity in a green future, and more is needed to ensure we get there.