Towards the end of 2015, the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change (MOECC) announced plans to develop a Cap and Trade system for Ontario to address climate change by reducing atmospheric carbon emissions and putting a price on carbon.
According to a press release earlier this month by Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA) president Don McCabe, the OFA has been working with the provincial government since the Cap and Trade system was announced. “We have focused on two main areas as the new system is developed – ensure farmers are acknowledged for their role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and ensure agriculture has the opportunity to participate in the new regulated system by providing carbon offsets (also referred to as carbon credits and carbon offset credits),” writes McCabe.
A carbon offset is generated by actions from an unregulated sector, like agriculture, that reduce or remove greenhouse gas emissions that goes beyond what would have happened in the absence of those actions. Carbon offsets are an important component to Cap and Trade systems and, according to McCabe, offer potential opportunities for Ontario farmers in the form of offset credit trading. Innovations in farm practices reduce greenhouse gas emissions and sequester carbon through actions like no-till, fertilizer management and ruminant feeding systems. “These actions need to be quantified and recognized through protocols developed for agriculture offsets and delivered to the market through aggregation,” writes McCabe.
The OFA recently hosted a workshop in Guelph to share insights from experts in carbon offsets, with more than 80 participants from government, agricultural groups, academics and interested industry organizations. The workshop “Setting off on offsets – Farming’s contribution to greenhouse gas reduction and how to capitalize on it” featured Canadian and international experts, and included topics on offset policy, emerging technology and experiences from other jurisdictions operating with Cap and Trade systems. “The event demonstrates OFA’s commitment to work with government and industry to ensure the new Cap and Trade system recognizes agriculture’s role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and includes a flexible, realistic and simple path to agricultural offset credits from farmers,” he wrote. These workshop presentations can be viewed online at OFA.on.ca.
In a presentation to workshop participants, Minister of Environment and Climate Change Glen Murray gave a nod to agriculture when he indicated that no other sector has shown more innovation, productivity, resiliency and adaptation than the farm and food community in Ontario.
“Ontario’s new Cap and Trade system needs to include opportunities for farmers to participate and recognize the positive contributions agriculture makes towards greenhouse gas mitigation and climate change,” wrote McCabe. “Minister Murray made it clear all methods of agriculture are needed, and all tools, like GMOs, are needed for the challenge of combatting climate change.”
According to McCabe, agriculture has an important contribution to make in a Cap and Trade system. “Bill 172, currently in Queen’s Park, is setting the framework for Ontario’s cap and trade system, and recognizes agriculture’s possibilities in Schedule 1 of the bill,” he said. “This is what primary agriculture needs. OFA will continue to advocate for our sector and the stewardship efforts we make every day to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to be sure agriculture stays properly engaged in the regulations and process forward under Ontario’s new Cap and Trade system.”