Farmers and Ranchers Deserve Better Offset Policies
By Todd Lewis
Producers are understandably frustrated. Governments are very eager to claim our carbon removals when they file greenhouse gas inventory reports. They are far less willing to recognize these contributions and provide incentives to encourage future success.
Along with all the other challenges faced by Saskatchewan producers, the role of farmers and ranchers in providing environmental services is one of the most complex.
Despite the fact that we manage 40% of Canada’s cropland and 35% of its grassland, the important role that our land management plays in providing environmental benefits like carbon sequestration still doesn’t get appropriate recognition from our federal and provincial governments. Each and every year, our producers sequester an additional 9 million tonnes of carbon. At a carbon price of $50 a tonne, that adds up to some meaningful value. Both levels of government have released draft carbon offset plans that will strictly limit how producers can get financially compensated for their soil sequestration activities through government regulated carbon offset markets. Rules developed for “industrial” offsets are being applied to biological carbon sinks, and those systems just don’t work in the same way – but they are easier to administer from a government’s point of view. Producers are understandably frustrated. Governments are very eager to claim our carbon removals when they file greenhouse gas inventory reports. They are far less willing to recognize these contributions and provide incentives to encourage future success. While there might be additional opportunities for producers in “voluntary” markets, all of these markets will follow different rules and verification systems, and most of the financial benefits will likely go to “aggregators” who manage the paperwork and marketing and take a large percentage of the revenue generated by the various programs. If the federal government is truly serious about meeting its ambitious greenhouse gas targets, we’re going to need every available tool, including maximizing biological carbon sequestration. The provincial government also needs to provide leadership in designing offset programs that help Canada reach its goals. Saskatchewan farmers and ranchers sequester millions of tonnes of carbon every year, and our land is a very important carbon sink. With proper recognition in place, we can do even more. This is not a conversation that will end anytime soon. There is a very consistent message from agricultural groups across Saskatchewan and Canada that governments need to pay attention to designing offset programs that make sense and provide value to producers. We will all continue advocating for better policies.