The National Farmers Union released the Second Edition of its comprehensive report on Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Canadian Agriculture.
Darrin Qualman, the NFU's Director of Climate Crisis Policy and Action says the latest data from 2020 says emissions from Canadian agriculture and the production of associated farm inputs are up 35 per cent since 1990.
"The reason that the emissions are going up is because emissions from nitrogen fertilizer are going up. It's not driven by fuel use or cattle, emissions from cattle are actually going down. It's driven by the fact that in Saskatchewan say the amount of fertilizer used by farmers has nearly quadrupled since the 1990s."
He points out there's a few things happening with the lower GHG emissions from cattle.
"One the herd is getting smaller it. It went up quite a bit around 2005 partly due to BSE and partly due to just expanding the herd. Then it peaked in 2005, it has been coming down since. So, that's part of it and the other part is just a little bit more efficiency. lower greenhouse gas emissions per head and per unit of beef."
According to the report emissions from fossil fuel use -both on the farm and in the production of farm inputs such as machinery and fertilizers - may make up nearly one-third of total agricultural-related GHGs, so clean renewable energy sources and a rapid move away from fossil fuels are key.
Qualman notes that although Environment and Climate Change Canada’s (ECCC’s) 2022 National Inventory Report includes revised methodologies for calculating soil carbon sequestration (multiplying sequestration tonnage), emissions remain four times larger than sequestration, so effective reduction in actual emissions must remain the top priority.
The NFU is working with other groups in the Farmers for Climate Solutions coalition to refine emission-reduction solutions including effective on farm actions and supportive government policies.
That report is available on the NFU website at https://www.nfu.ca/publications/agricultural-greenhouse-gas-emissions-in-canada-2nd-edition/