by BETTER FARMING STAFF
Ontario’s new climate change strategy aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to just 20 per cent of their 1990 levels over the next three decades, and a report introduced Tuesday indicates agriculture will have more than one role in helping to achieve these targets.
Bryan Gilvesy, who farms in Norfolk County near Tillsonburg and spearheaded the Alternative Land Use Services (ALUS) program in Ontario, says the report’s recognition of the role farmers play in managing and restoring natural ecosystems and that the province is “looking at the bigger impact that farmers can have,” are significant developments and encouraging.
“I keep seeing throughout the document the word ‘management’ repeated, and one of the things we do at ALUS is reward farmers for managing and restoring natural ecosystems.
“Throughout the document you hear about natural systems, ecosystems, adaptation, resilience, management,” he says. “We’ve been touting for years and years and years that farmers need to be considered as valuable contributors and managers of these systems for the overall benefit of Ontarians.”
The strategy, announced by Premier Kathleen Wynne in Toronto on Tuesday, comes less than a week before global climate change talks in Paris are scheduled to take place. The strategy identifies three main targets: eliminating 30 megatons (Mt) of emissions by 2020 (15 per cent below the 1990 level of 182 Mt of carbon dioxide equivalent); reducing emissions by 37 per cent by 2030 and 80 per cent by 2050.
“Subnational governments play a critical role in the fight against climate change — this is the foundation of our strategy and it is the message we’ll be taking to Paris,” Wynne states in the release that accompanies the climate change strategy report.
Central to the strategy is a carbon cap and trade system that goes into effect in 2017. The system will be harmonized with similar systems in California and Quebec.
It works by setting caps on how much carbon each business sector in the province can generate. The caps are gradually lowered to reduce emissions.
As well, the system includes carbon credit trading to allow businesses and industries that don’t use all of their pollution credits to sell them to others in order to offset emission excesses.
Gilvesy allows that carbon cap and trade “hasn’t made a meaningful income difference on the working landscape for farmers” in other jurisdictions.
And right now, the Ontario climate change strategy doesn’t have enough details to indicate exactly how it, or its primary tool the cap and trade system, will affect farmers and their activities, he says.
“When you talk about the cap and trade system, we haven’t seen on what protocols that they will be paying on, or to what acreage extent it might effect or even what dollar values it might impact,” he explains.
Moreover, in a Tuesday email, Kate Jordan, spokesperson for the ministry of environment and climate change, did not rule out the possibility of an emissions cap being imposed on agricultural activity.
“Generally speaking, an effective cap and trade program should cover all emissions that can be reliably measured or estimated, including all sectors that emit greenhouse gas pollution,” she writes.
Agriculture is identified in the report as being responsible for only six per cent of Ontario emissions based on 2012 data. That’s far less than the 34 per cent attributed to transportation, the 30 per cent industry produces or even the 17 per cent that comes from buildings.
Nevertheless, the report singles out agriculture, noting that the sector “has a complex relationship with emissions. Some farming activities — raising livestock, using on-farm equipment such as tractors or food processing — add emissions. Plants and vegetation, on the other hand, absorb carbon dioxide . . . and store it in plant material and the soil, thereby reducing atmospheric carbon.”
Along with cap and trade, the province lists several other strategy initiatives including:
- introducing climate legislation
- ensuring climate change and greenhouse gas emission reduction becomes a priority in all aspects of government business from infrastructure development to employee training
- conducting climate change and emission reduction research and
- developing methods to measure the emission impacts of different projects.
There will also be effort to encourage zero emission and plug-in hybrid vehicles and to reduce emissions from the transport of goods and to create incentive programs.
The report calls for aligning “climate change objectives with agriculture and natural systems.”
It further notes: “Food systems and agricultural lands will be proactively protected and resilient. Agri-food policies and programs will be more oriented to climate-smart agriculture and energy efficient food production. Biodiversity will be conserved and natural resources and ecosystems will be managed for resilience.”
Jordan says the ministry is in the process of public consultation in connection with the design of the cap and trade program. It will release a five-year plan with more details in the coming months “with specific commitments to meet our near-term 2020 emissions reduction target, and establish the framework necessary to meet our targets for 2030 and 2050.”
All areas of the Ontario economy will be addressed, including agriculture, she notes. BF
Ontario having banned any coal fired generating plants and pushing green energy and a carbon tax along with already being a high cost business province should be careful about driving away more jobs and industry . Everyone wants a clean environment but move slowly as families need to pay there rents or mortgages,energy bill , feed there families and have a decent job . Often the ones making the rules do not have any idea what working families outside of Toronto can make in wages or can afford . If you work for Civil Service you can pretty much bet that your wages and benefit package is 2X what it would be in a comparable private industry job . Not advocating taking things away from the Civil Servants but we need too raise income levels of our working poor. kg kimball
I can tell you why Agriculture is singled out, the industry is such an easy target.This Government could slap heavy emissions reduction controls on farm machinery and it wouldn't cause a ripple within Liberal MP strongholds, however try and apply those same standards on big trucks, buses, planes or probably even stricter controls for cars and there will be an backlash this Government might take notice to.
It resembles how we are always told to conserve hydro usage and then you drive into Toronto at night and see the office high rises all lite up after work hours.
I have to wonder if this is all about tax income
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