Auditor General gives Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada's climate track record a failing grade


Canada’s Auditor General was highly critical of the federal government’s efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in agriculture in an independent report released on Tuesday.

The audit found Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) has failed to design, implement and then track plans for how the agriculture sector will contribute to Canada’s 2030 and 2050 greenhouse gas reduction commitments. The report cites many shortcomings, including a lack of clear targets, poor data collection, program delays, and incomplete verification and monitoring.

The review specifically looked at the rollout and results of three programs launched in 2021: the Living Labs program, the On-Farm Climate Action Fund (OFCAF), and the Agricultural Clean Technology program. Altogether, more than $1.5 billion in federal funding has been earmarked for these three programs. The audit also assessed AAFC’s work toward reaching the government’s fertilizer and methane emissions reduction targets.

The report provides new details on AAFC’s implementation of these programs and policies, and included the following short-comings and conclusions:

– The department had no strategy to meet its expected contributions to reductions of greenhouse gas emissions;
– No strategy on climate change mitigation for the agriculture sector;
– Programs’ emission reduction contributions toward fertilizer and methane targets not identified;
– The department had limited results and poor results measurement;
– Results achieved were limited by delays in program implementation;
– Missing or non-finalized performance targets for climate change mitigation programs;
– Unreliable and incomplete results measurement, verification, and monitoring of reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

Among the new pieces of information, the audit shows AAFC had internally estimated emissions reductions for each of its programs, with a total reduction of 11.2 Mt CO2 eq by 2023, but this information was not made public by the department. “In our view, making this information publicly available would provide more transparent information to the agriculture sector to explain federal policy development and decisions,” the report notes.

The Auditor General also confirmed the department did not consult with farmers or other stakeholders prior to establishing its fertilizer emissions reduction target in 2020. “One consequence of this lack of consultation was that some sector stakeholders interpreted the target as an absolute reduction of 30 per cent in fertilizer use, rather than a 30 per cent reduction in emissions from improved fertilizer application techniques,” the report states.

Following backlash to the fertilizer emission policy, the department said it would achieve the 30 per cent target by reaching voluntary agreements with fertilizer manufacturers, provinces, and farmers, but the audit found none had been established as of January 2024.

“There is no doubt we need to do more to help the agriculture sector reduce emissions, and quickly,” said Agriculture Minister Lawrence MacAulay, responding to the report. “…I am pleased to share that work is well underway to action the recommendations.”

In response to recommendations made in the Auditor General’s report, AAFC says it plans to finalize its Sustainable Agriculture Strategy by the end of 2024. The department says it’s also committed to improving the three programs that were examined, and to reviewing the measurement, verification and reporting of results from its programs.

Read the Auditor General’s report here.

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