While there are definitely challenges for the agriculture industry as they strive to meet Canada's targets under the Paris Agreement, Candace Vinke said a carbon economy also holds a number of opportunities for the sector.
The sustainable development director for Viresco Solutions in Calgary was one of the guest speakers at the recent annual Island Agrology Workshop at Stanley Bridge. The theme of the three day event was "Building Resiliency in Maritime Agriculture in an era of climate change."
Viresco Solutions specializes in greenhouse gas offset policy development and implementation, greenhouse gas emissions quantification, sustainable supply chain development, environmental offset methodology development, and providing technical assistance to others undertaking carbon offset project development.
When it comes to the carbon offset market, Vinke told the conference there are different regulatory regimes across the country and around the world. She explained in some jurisdictions, large emitters are required to belong to a carbon offset program and typically the price is in the range of $15-$50 a tonne.
In areas where there is a voluntary system, there is typically a third-party registry and anybody can participate. In those situations, Vinke, explained the price is usually lower -- anywhere from $1 to $45 a tonne. There are also a process called "insetting", where companies integrate a carbon offset market into their supply chain.
Her company developed and tested a Carbon Accounting and Insetting Framework for the National Corn Growers, Soil Health Partnership, Bayer and other partners through a USDA Conservation Innovation Grant. In this CIG project, participating companies partner with farmers in their supply chain who take steps to reduce Greenhouse Gases on their farms.
She noted her home province has 11 agricultural protocols that have generated over 20 million tonnes of registered and verified carbon credits, including the world’s first sustainable beef carbon credits.
Vinke explained the protocols encourage emission reductions at all levels of the supply chain, noting the targets are in line with the level of decarbonization required to keep global temperatures from increasing by more than two degrees.
The guest speaker said the Alberta effort has been endorsed by major worldwide companies like Wal-Mart, Cargill, McDonald's, Kellogg's, Coca Cola and Pepsi.
She said one of the major challenges facing agriculture when it comes to selling carbon is the fact the revenue stream is usually quite small, as is the amount of green house gases an individual farm can reduce. She also noted soil sequestration is not permanent.
Vinke said the Alberta experience could be used by other jurisdictions to enable the “Biological Bridge” as an essential interim approach to addressing climate change while the world transitions its energy sources