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Climate Change Leadership: You are Already Doing it Right! (PCN Spring 2017) MAR 28 2017 | Consumers and Producers | Pulse Crop News

This article appeared in the Spring 2017 issue of Pulse Crop News.

Nevin Rosaasen, APG Policy & Program Specialist

When it comes to minimizing agricultural impact on the climate, and specifically carbon dioxide levels, the Alberta cropping sector has exemplified climate change leadership.

Yes. That’s correct. Alberta broad-acre cropping systems have evolved over time to be one of the greatest allies in the global quest to decarbonize our economy. Imagine your fields as massive solar collectors for energy and calories, but also an atmospheric carbon filtration and sequestration biological super machine like no other on Earth.

The management practices producers have adopted are numerous, and include aspects of continuous cropping, soil conservation from minimum tillage, adoption of GPS and precision guidance, sectional control in sprayers and planters, and adopting new genetics that have higher water use efficiency, nutrient use efficiency as well as soil sampling.

All of these practices reduce the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere. Many producers haven’t realized that they are leaders in taking action on climate change. In the early 2000s, scientists already recognized that the Canadian cropping sector was a net negative contributor to greenhouse gases due to changes in practices and the ability to sequester carbon.

So why aren’t Alberta producers being recognized for their actions? Why are they paying a carbon tax?

Alberta has been leading the way in conservation cropping offset protocol development, and the use of carbon offsets combined with taxing large final emitters in the creation of a quasi-market-based system combining tax and trade, in order to meet climate goals.

These offsets and protocols continue to be developed, recalculated and scrutinized in order to ensure the objectives of government are met. The current government objective is to decarbonize the Alberta economy by taxing the externality (C02), which is a by-product of combustion of fossil fuels and whose concentrations continue to climb in the atmosphere. So why aren’t producers getting paid if they are sequestering more carbon than they emit?

The answer is, it’s complicated. Many protocols are developed before the science is settled and they often need to be tweaked in order to capture the three elements of a proven offset, protocol or ecosystem service being provided. The three factors determining quality offsets include permanence, baseline and additionality. The tests are: Is the carbon sequestered permanent in nature, is the baseline for comparison appropriate and is the practice change additional to business as usual?

As the government finds its way through current policy pertaining to taxing carbon and rewarding those companies, corporations and producers such as yourselves who are reducing their climatic impact, it is important that producer commissions communicate what advances the cropping sector has made in this area. New technologies already exist, and their commercialization and adoption tomorrow and into the future will continue to advance the way agriculture is done in Alberta.

Be proud of the climate leadership you have exemplified – You are already doing it! The trick lies in communicating to urban cousins and neighbours, as well as politicians, as to how we are producing food in the most economical, efficient and cost effective way possible – a method that not only make economic cents, but climate sense all at the same time.