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Agriculture sector fears being left behind in the cleantech revolution

by Mark Sabourin
EcoLog, 3/31/2017 8:51:00 AM

A great deal of money will be raised and spent once carbon pricing takes effect nationwide in 2018, and the Coalition on Offset Solutions wants to make sure Canada’s forestry and agricultural sectors get their fair share.

It’s not a question of staking out a place at the trough, says Karen Haugen-Kozyra, president of Calgary-based environmental consulting firm Viresco Solutions Inc. and one of the organizers of the coalition, but of leveraging a sector where Canada has a natural advantage and already stands as a global leader. Alberta’s offset market, for instance, has the largest number of biological reduction protocols in the world.

The coalition, more than 75 agriculture industry leaders from crop and livestock organizations, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), government, universities, First Nations, and agribusinesses, is calling for the creation of a global Bio-Offset Hub and a dedicated $30 million+ multi-year innovation fund. The hub would be a multi-stakeholder network for collaboration with government and funding agencies to develop emission reduction policies and programs.

“We are facing a technological shift of epic proportions,” Haugen-Kozyra told EcoLog News, and it’s being ignored by the cleantech movement and proponents of green technologies. Everyone’s focussing on the energy sector, she says. “There’s no representation from the bio sectors whatsoever.”

Canada’s biological sector — including agriculture, forestry, wetlands and municipal waste — represents more than 30% of the nation’s carbon reduction potential, she says. It deserves a seat at the table.

Sequestration is part of this technological revolution, but it’s not the whole story. There are also opportunities for net reductions in emissions from the wise use of resources, she says.

There are plenty of projects underway now on a smaller scale that could, with the right support, be scaled up nationally. They range from the seemingly mundane, such as new cattle feed that may reduce enteric emissions by as much as 30%, to drone- and satellite-driven precision agriculture systems.

“The Canadian agriculture industry is recognized as being amongst the most sustainable in the world because of our farmers’ voluntary stewardship,” she says. It’s important for the cleantech movement to leverage this strength as it builds Canada’s low-carbon economy.

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