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Feds asked to rethink fertilizer emission target

Industry proposes ‘emissions intensity’ targets to measure fertilizer use improvements rather than a 30 percent across-the-board reduction.
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Fertilizer Canada says achieving a 30 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions “would require a reduction in fertilizer use.”
WESTERN PRODUCER — A Canadian organization that represents fertilizer manufacturers, wholesale distributors and retailers says Ottawa needs to rethink its greenhouse gas reduction emission target stemming from fertilizer use.

Fertilizer Canada said Ottawa’s unilateral decision to establish a voluntary 30 percent emissions reduction target by 2030 will have far-reaching and unintended consequences for the economy.

The organization’s top executive says the federal government should consult with the stakeholders in the agriculture and fertilizer industries, among others, to arrive at more reasonable targets that are more achievable and less harmful to the economy.

Fertilizer Canada recently released a report suggesting that Ottawa’s 30 percent reduction target could cost Canadian farmers as much as $48 billion in lost revenue over the next eight years.

Ottawa has not indicated how it intends to meet its fertilizer-related GHG emissions reduction target.

But according to Fertilizer Canada president Karen Proud, achieving a 30 percent reduction “would require a reduction in fertilizer use.”

“There’s no other way at this stage to achieve it,” she said.

Proud said Ottawa established its GHG reduction target without consulting affected industries and without conducting an economic analysis.

“These targets were set with absolutely no consultation whatsoever, with the agricultural sector, with the industries that support the agricultural sector or even with the provincial governments…,” Proud said.

“What we’re asking for is (for Ottawa) to have those discussions in order to develop an approach that is practical and pragmatic and that doesn’t result in the sort of losses that we saw coming out of our report.”

Stakeholders in the fertilizer and agriculture sectors are “committed absolutely to emissions reduction and to working on addressing climate change,” she added.

But the first step in establishing realistic targets and managing economic risk is to consult with industry and facilitate a conversation about what’s achievable and what’s practical.

“At the same time the government came out with its goals around (fertilizer-related) emissions, it also came out with goals around increasing (agricultural) exports and domestic production,” Proud said.

“We think we can have both.”

Through its 4R Nutrient Stewardship Program, the Canadian fertilizer industry has been working with agricultural producers to promote a more responsible use of agricultural fertilizers.

On a per bushel basis, the fertilizer industry believes that use can be reduced without restricting productivity and jeopardizing food security.

Fertilizer Canada is proposing a strategy that uses “emissions intensity” to measure improvements in fertilizer use and achieve heightened sustainability targets.

Fertilizer Canada is also considering the need for additional studies to assess the impact that a 30 percent reduction target would have on food security, grocery prices and other Canadian industries, such a transportation and manufacturing.