Ontario Federation of Agriculture Commentary By Don McCabe, OFA President
Climate change continues to make headlines. Canada’s new federal government has committed to tackling the issue. The Ontario government is consulting on the design of the cap and trade program for linkage with Quebec, California, and Manitoba. The recent United Nations Conference of the Parties (COP 21) on climate change brought together 195 nations for the common cause of addressing climate change and working together to limit the predicted rise in global temperatures.
There’s a lot to talk about with climate change – how we can reduce greenhouse gases that cause it (mitigation), what we do to prepare for our environment as it changes (adaptation), and recognition that food security is threatened with an unstable environment. The Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA) has been talking to members, government and policy makers about climate change for quite some time, and participated in discussions at the 21st Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Paris, France earlier this month.
OFA President, Don McCabe attended COP 21 as a representative of a number of organizations. The Canadian Federation of Agriculture (CFA) is a member of the World Farmers Organization (WFO), and the WFO is part of the Farmers Constituency that the UNFCCC recognizes for advocacy purposes to bring farmer views to policy makers. McCabe had the opportunity to be in contact with various country representatives to bring farmer needs and solutions with the credentials obtained by CFA from the UN. As the Canadian representative of the North American Climate Smart Agriculture Alliance McCabe was part of a panel presentation on North American farmer views. As the OFA President, McCabe also represented North American farmer views on a panel with fellow farmers from Malawi for Africa, Indonesia, Argentina for South America and England for the European Union. McCabe is very grateful for the invitations to participate in these activities.
In all venues, McCabe’s messages were the same. Agriculture is a part of the problem, but a larger part of the solution regardless of size of farmer. All farmers are managers of the carbon and nitrogen cycles to produce the world’s basic needs of food, fiber, fuel and protein. We need to give farmers the tools, technologies and policy to engage to the future. Only farmers can offer food security, climate resiliency and numerous other environmental goods and services through their management of the world’s soils and technologies.
The outcome of COP 21 was a universal agreement by all countries represented. The first goal is to keep the global temperature increase from exceeding 1.5 degrees Celsius. The agreement also aims to strengthen the global ability to deal with the impacts of climate change.
The commitment to keep the global temperature from rising means greenhouse gas emissions must be reduced. We all have a role to play. Under previous governments, Canada has already committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The current target is 30% below 2005 levels by 2030. Prime Minister Trudeau has called a meeting of Canada’s Premiers to establish a national policy approach 90 days after the United Nations conference.
Any effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions will impact farmers. It’s never been more important to remind policy makers of the role farmers have in our environmental system – farmers have the ability to provide solutions.
New regulations to reduce emissions mean carbon will have a price tag at the farm. That means farmers could see the cost of inputs rise as additional charges are added to things like electricity, steel, concrete and fertilizers, where emissions arise from their production.
Agriculture must be recognized for the existing efforts made to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through carbon sequestration with no-till practices, feeding regimes for ruminants and fertilizer management. Ontario farmers could see future opportunities in carbon credits, offsetting emissions from other companies producing greenhouse gases.
This is not only a government concern. COP 21 had numerous world companies present giving their views and commitments to reducing greenhouse gases. The World Business Council on Sustainable Development released a paper highlighting how their company supply chains can address sustainable development goals and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Their supply chain initiatives are laudable. Within any of these, farm gate inclusion must be rewarded to reach achievement. Farmers need to be consulted and engaged to reach transparency and equity.
Whether it’s influencing policy development or using environmental best management practices on our farms, we all have a role to play in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and the resulting impact of climate change. Farmers are an important part of the solution. OFA will continue to champion the role of farmers in the climate change discussions to every level of government and promote farmers’ roles in sustainability to all. Any policy related to greenhouse gasses and climate change mitigation and adaptation must account for agriculture.