The National Farmers Union (NFU) is questioning remarks made by Premier Scott Moe during a speech at the Canadian Western Agribition Grain Expo last week, claiming that Saskatchewan’s agriculture is zero in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
Moe described agriculture as a “zero net” and even “negative net” sector in Saskatchewan, as he prefaced the announcement of a new sustainability-focused marketing campaign, Sustainable SK.
Darrin Qualman, director of policy and action for climate crises at the NFU, rebuked Moe’s statement.
“He’s essentially giving the message, ‘There’s no more work to be done here. Nothing is needed, no changes. We take care of it and your problem is solved’ – and that is absolutely wrong,” Qualman said in an interview on Thursday.
“He basically put the whole issue of agricultural emissions in the resolved column.”
Qualman said the prime minister’s comments are “essentially quick” and celebrate the efforts of Saskatchewan producers very early on.
“We really support and value farmers’ efforts to reduce emissions; those are real and positive,” he said.
“It is a problem that farmers are working to solve and are contributing to the solution, but we still have a lot of work to do.”
According to an earlier analysis by Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC), Saskatchewan produced 10.3% of Canada’s GHG emissions in 2019, surpassing Alberta for the highest per capita emissions of the provinces.
NFU analysis of the most recent data from the ECCC’s National Inventory Report, published in April, indicates that in 2020 Canada’s GHG emissions were approximately four times the volume of soil carbon sequestration that occurred in the same period.
Qualman said that while the data is presented as national numbers, Saskatchewan represents such a large share of Canada’s agricultural output that provincial trends show the same proportion.
“We are very far from zero and very far from negative,” he said.
The Prime Minister’s statement that carbon sequestration has increased by 400% rings true when compared to 1990 levels, Qualman said, but when plotting the trend lines presented in the ECCC report, he noted that emissions are currently trending upwards. , while sequestration volumes are stabilizing or even falling downwards.
“We are not moving towards net-zero,” he said. “We will probably never be (zero liquids) in agriculture because it is so hard to do that.”
Qualman said the NFU’s main concern is that Moe’s message could actually undermine efforts to improve sequestration and other GHG reduction efforts.
That amounts to “mischaracterizing the current situation” and could sow confusion among producers, Qualman said.
“We want to ensure that we emphasize the urgency of renewed ambitious action and this unfortunately completely takes away that urgency,” Qualman said.
Agriculture as a sector is undergoing a critical transition, Qualman said, and producers need clear messages from government to support moving forward.
The NFU is looking to the government to provide accurate information and data when speaking, in the best interests of producers.
“We handle data carefully and presented in great detail, and I think our political leaders need to do something similar,” Qualman said.
The NFU asks the prime minister to publicly provide the data on which his comments were based last Tuesday, delivered in a request sent to his office the following day.
At the time of publication, Qualman had not received a response other than a notice that his request had been referred to the office of Minister of Agriculture David Marit for consideration.
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