As part of Canada’s net-zero target, the country is seeking to significantly cut the emissions from fertilizers, a move that is seeing pushback from the agriculture industry.
Canada wants to cut 30% of greenhouse gas emissions from fertilizer by 2030 based on 2020 levels. It is part of the government’s plan to reduce emissions by 45% through that time en route to achieving net zero by 2050.
That plan has caused significant pushback from farmers in the country. The Financial Post reported it could cost Canada’s agricultural industry $10.4 billion through 2030 from the reduced production.
A survey by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business found that 72% of farmers said it would reduce their crop yield. Additionally, 42% said the target would be an obstacle because they’ve already reduced their fertilizer use.
The negative response has resulted in Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food Marie-Claude Bibeau saying the fertilizer emissions reduction targets are voluntary, not mandatory. She says the government is using the target to encourage best practices and technologies on farms to reduce emissions
Multiple reports, though, have said by not reducing fertilizer emissions, farmers could lose access to more than $1 billion of financial incentives to help increase sustainable practices. That includes access to more efficient machinery and new technologies.
According to government statistics, agriculture was responsible for 10% of Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions in 2019. Synthetic fertilizers produced 12.75 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent.
Fertilizer use in the country increased by 71% from 2005 to 2019, according to government figures. That led to an increase in nitrous oxide emissions by 54% due to fertilizer use. According to the Financial Post report, wheat production rose more than 40% from 2010 through 2020 and canola was up 56% over the same period.
Canada isn’t the only country facing pushback from agriculture emissions targets. The Netherlands has a target to reduce nitrogen and ammonia emissions by 50% through 2030, leading to widespread protests.
In the United States, the Missouri Farm Bureau formally opposed the Security and Exchange Commission’s proposed emissions disclosure rules. The group says the disclosures would be difficult and expensive for farmers to meet, especially for small- and mid-sized farms.
As part of the Canadian plan, the government offered ideas on how to cut fertilizer use. These include using the proper amount of fertilizer when it is applied, and alternatives such as manures, compost, or digestate that it says can reduce emissions by 10% to 20%.
Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada is accepting public input regarding the fertilizer emissions target through Aug. 31, 2022.