An ambitious target set by the federal government to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions associated with fertilizers does not go far enough, according to an environmental organization which argues that Canada must restrict its production of synthetic fertilizers.
“Canada is one of the worst offenders, with some of the highest per capita emissions in the world from these fertilizers. It’s a combination of huge levels of production and consumption here,” said Shane Moffatt, Greenpeace Canada’s nature and food campaign manager. “We’re not seeing the kind of progress in agriculture that we need to see, and that’s, in large part, driven by our overreliance on these types of fertilizers. This goes right to the heart of climate action in agriculture and for Canada as a whole. This is a really critical area where Canada is lagging behind.
The Liberal government released a discussion paper on March 4 outlining a target to reduce absolute levels of fertilizer-related GHG emissions by 30% below 2020 levels by 2030. A public consultation process to gather feedback comments on how to achieve this goal will end on the 31st.
In response to the public consultation process, Greenpeace Canada released a list of seven recommendations on August 8 to address fertilizer-related GHG emissions. Topping the list is a proposal that the emissions reduction target should be increased from 30% to 50% below 2020 levels over the next eight years.
Reducing emissions from fertilizers is key to mitigating the impacts of climate change, according to a Greenpeace Canada press release accompanying the list of recommendations. The organization argues that crop and animal production contributes about 10% of all GHG emissions in Canada, one-third of which comes from nitrous oxide released by nitrogen fertilizers when applied to the soil.
Greenpeace is also advocating that Ottawa impose a cap on the production of domestically produced synthetic nitrogen fertilizers. About 5.5 million tonnes of synthetic nitrogen fertilizers are currently produced each year in Canada, and the industrial process to produce them consumes between 8 and 10 percent of Canada’s natural gas, according to Greenpeace data.
“Currently, the federal proposal and the consultation process they are conducting specifically excludes shows from production,” Moffatt said. “We think that’s a big gaping hole in any policy that’s going to talk about reducing emissions from these artificial fertilizers.”
Greenpeace argued in the press release that synthetic fertilizers produced in Canada still contribute to nitrous oxide emissions in the countries to which they are exported. Without a production cap, Canada could potentially be in a situation of reducing GHG emissions locally, while contributing to GHG emissions globally, according to the press release.
Moffat said hill time that it does not yet know what cap should be imposed on domestic fertilizer production.
“In terms of the exact number, we haven’t calculated what proportion of that 50% that would necessarily imply at this stage, but we want that discussion to be part and parcel of political action to reduce emissions of those fertilizers, not just on the consumption and application side,” he said. “What we don’t want to see is Canada taking action to reduce our emissions of these fertilizers here at home, but continues to expand the market for these chemical fertilizers globally and, in fact, increases the emissions of these fertilizers worldwide.”
Karen Proud, president and CEO of Fertilizer Canada, criticized Greenpeace’s recommendation of a 50% GHG reduction target as not adequately addressing the potential impact on crop yields. Canada is a huge agricultural exporter that has a duty to help feed the rest of the world, according to Proud.
“We are entering a global food crisis, and we have to be very careful when we put policies in place so that they do not impede our abilities to continue producing and to continue increasing yields. While we are 100% behind efforts to reduce fertilizer emissions, this cannot happen in a vacuum,” Proud said. “We have to look at climate change in a very, very serious way. There is no doubt about it, but it has to be balanced against the effect of the measures on food security.
Proud says hill time Greenpeace’s proposed cap on fertilizer production in Canada is also of concern. Canada is the world’s largest producer of potash, a fertilizer ingredient, and seventh in the world for nitrogen fertilizer production, according to Proud.
“Canada has some of the most modern facilities in the world to manufacture these products. Do we really want to cap that and divert production to other countries like China, Russia, [and] Belarus, where not only are they not reliable suppliers, but they also don’t care about the environmental impact of their production? said Proud. “It is, in my opinion, a short-sighted view to consider capping Canadian production when we are already much more efficient than other parts of the world.
Fertilizer Canada is preparing its own contribution to Agriculture and Agri-Food’s public consultation process, according to Proud. Fertilizer Canada’s submission will advocate for an approach to reduce GHG emissions through the application of the 4Rs program, she said.
The 4Rs program is a framework used by farmers in Canada to help achieve various farming goals, such as increased production or better environmental protection. The program involves considering the right source (ensuring the type of fertilizer matches the crop’s needs), the right rate (matching the amount of fertilizer to the crop’s needs), the right time ( making nutrients available when crops need them), and in the right place (keeping nutrients where crops need them most).
“We don’t need to reinvent the wheel here. We actually have a program that works. What’s exciting about the 4Rs program is that it helps reduce emissions, but it also looks at agricultural productivity and how we balance the two to be as productive in agriculture as possible while by reducing our emissions,” Proud said. “We have a program that works and our main proposal to the government is to work with this program and empower farmers to adopt these practices where they have not, and we can make great strides towards the reducing emissions.”
To support fertilizer production in Canada, the Minister of Agriculture, Marie-Claude Bibeau (Compton—Stanstead, Qc), announced on July 4 an investment of $1.6 million in Sulvaris, a development company Alberta-based technology company to help develop technology for producing high-efficient organic carbon-based fertilizers.
Issues impacting food security include conflict in Ukraine, which is a major agricultural producer, as well as climate change and a growing population, according to a news release from Agriculture and Agri-Food. According to the press release, supporting new “climate-smart on-farm practices” is essential if Canadian farmers are to continue to achieve sustainable production gains.
“Following the conflict in Ukraine, our farmers are called upon to play an even greater role in feeding the world, and we continue our efforts to ensure they have access to the resources they need. Our investment in Sulvaris’ innovative fertilizer technology recognizes this key ongoing priority to support the development of affordable and environmentally sustainable fertilizers that help our farmers improve food supply,” Bibeau said in the press release. hurry.