Agriculture Canada failed on emission reduction programs

The sector has an important role to play in climate change abatement

Ottawa-Agriculture Canada has failed to develop a strategy for empowering the farm sector to meet federal emission reduction goals despite being instructed to by the government in 2020, says a report by Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development.

Between 1990 and 2021, the agriculture sector’s greenhouse gas emissions grew by 39 per cent, mostly driven by increased crop production, the report said. In 2021, Agriculture Canada launched three key programs to reduce greenhouse gas emissions but delays in funding approvals hindered the programs’ success.

Also, the department has not yet set or finalized performance targets for two of the three programs and has so far achieved less than 2 per cent of its 2030 overall greenhouse gas reduction target. Nor has it developed a strategy for how the sector would contribute to Canada’s 2030 and 2050 greenhouse gas mitigation and sequestration goals.

Environmental Commissioner Jerry DeMarco said the three programs “are integral to the fight against climate change, which is why setting targets and tracking results are so important.”

Without a strategy to provide the agriculture sector with a long-term vision and direction, the department’s path to help achieve Canada’s 2030 and 2050 goals remains unclear. The Department “will need to ensure that all its expected reductions in greenhouse gas emissions for 2030 take place in the 6 growing seasons that remain.”

The report said agriculture can meaningfully contribute to Canada’s climate change targets, including fertilizer and methane emission reduction commitments. For those reasons, the department should finalize and implement a sustainable agriculture strategy.

The department should also implement a results monitoring framework to enable the accurate, timely, and transparent assessment of results and the ability to roll up greenhouse gas emission reduction data across its projects and programs.

The report noted the department did undertake extensive science-based work that informed its current climate change programming.

The delayed funding approvals for the programs resulted in recipients missing a growing season thereby limiting the greenhouse gas reduction results achieved by this past January. In addition, two of the three programs had not yet set or finalized all of their performance targets for climate change mitigation.

DeMarco said agriculture’s ability “to reduce greenhouse gas emissions under its programs are integral to the fight against climate change, which is why setting targets and tracking results are so important.”

The agriculture sector can play a key role in mitigating climate change through agricultural management practices that reduce emissions of greenhouse gases and remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

Climate change is a complex, long‑term problem, and having a strategy for Canada’s agriculture sector would establish transformational goals and targets, he said. “A strategy would also support collaboration with federal partners, other levels of government, Indigenous peoples, and sector stakeholders.”

This news item was prepared for National Newswatch