Emission reduction target proposal includes nod to 4R, economics, and productivity, but red flags remain

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When the government releases a report at 6 pm on a Friday, just ahead of the House of Commons rising for a few weeks, it’s reasonable to assume it’s bad news.

So when Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada released its white paper on its upcoming fertilizer emission reduction target exactly then last week, many, including Dave Carey, vice-president of government and industry relations, expected the worst.

Now, after having at least dug in to the report somewhat, Carey is looking forward to what the consultation will look like.

“It’s not as doom and gloom as I had initially thought,” Carey says.

Generally speaking, however, there is still language in the report with a heavy EU-style bent, he says, adding that fundamentally EU-type regulations are not compatible with modern agriculture practices.

There’s also the focus on reducing absolute emissions vs considering the intensity of emissions. Put another way, the government’s angle doesn’t include a consideration for being more efficient per unit of fertilizer — only that the total emissions number must go down, independent of food and agriculture production.

The report admits that measuring fertilizer losses is still not an exact science. But the government is moving forward regardless.

“The science isn’t quite there yet,” Carey adds. “If we can’t measure losses, how can we possibly know where we want to reduce them, how we will reduce them, and what percentage we can reduce emissions. We all recognize reducing emissions is a good thing.”

To complicate the discussion, there’s also mention of both direct emissions (ie. volatilization of nitrogen) and indirect emissions, a much less concrete area of study. In the absence of data, the approach is likely to be overly cautious, he predicts.

Hear the entire discussion with Carey, below:

Related: Discussion paper on 30% fertilizer emissions reduction a step in the right direction, says Fertilizer Canada

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