OFA: Agriculture needs key role in climate change

By Drew Spoelstra, Executive Member, Ontario Federation of Agriculture

OPINION – As the federal government moves forward with plans for an offset system to address greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, OFA continues to advocate for the positive role agriculture has in addressing climate change. The recent release of the government’s proposed emissions pricing system – that includes the use of carbon offset credits – brings to light the work that OFA has long been focused on to show the positive contributions agriculture makes in reducing greenhouse gases.

In a carbon offset system, carbon credits are generated when a project or action reduces greenhouse gas emissions more than if the project had not occurred. Those credits can be sold to other industries to “offset” their excess greenhouse gas emissions.

In this type of system, it’s critical to identify and recognize the industries or activities that generate carbon credits. Agriculture falls in this camp. That’s why OFA supports the concept of issuing carbon offset credits for farming activities that reduce greenhouse gas emissions beyond business-as-usual.

It’s also why the agriculture industry needs to be a key player in developing a simple, efficient offset system that provides financial incentives to farmers. Agriculture represents the largest group of private landowners in the province with a tremendous potential to provide offsets to regulated sectors. But offset credits from the ag sector will take time to plan, develop, execute and verify, and we need realistic timelines with adequate time for farmers to fully participate.

OFA recently provided input to Environment and Climate Change Canada on its discussion paper Carbon Pollution Pricing: Options for a Federal GHG Offset System. 

We are requesting that the key elements of an offset system be developed by people who understand the carbon offsets that agriculture can generate. Ontario farmers, and many companies along the agri-food value chain, have long been leaders in looking for new technologies and techniques to gain efficiencies on the farm. Many of these initiatives also come with the added benefit of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and our industry’s overall impact on the environment.

On-farm stewardship activities have been generating carbon offsets for many years, and any new offset system should be retroactive to include credits for early actions from the agriculture sector.

OFA is confident that a new carbon offset system can provide a necessary bridge for industries to make a cost-effective transition to cleaner activities – and provide new opportunities for agriculture to be recognized for its continued role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

We’ll be working to ensure the federal government’s design of a carbon offset system allows for the greatest participation by Ontario farmers. Please read OFA’s full submission to Environment and Climate Change Canada at ofa.on.ca, click on Resources then Submissions and Correspondence.