Federal methane emissions reduction should be productivity based, not absolute, says cattle industry

(Kara Oosterhuis/RealAgriculture)

Environment and Climate Change Canada launched the national methane emissions reduction proposal in September, titled “Faster and Further: Canada’s Methane Strategy.”

In it, the federal government outlines the expected reduction of methane emissions from agriculture based on 2020 levels. The total reduction — one per cent — is a pretty small portion, but it’s the focus on an absolute number instead of a factor of productivity that gives the cattle industry pause.

Tyler Fulton is officer at large with the Canadian Cattle Association. He says that the industry itself has been working directly and indirectly on the emissions equation for years, through breeding more efficient cattle and adopting new management techniques and technologies.

Canada already has a great story to tell on the emissions side, he says. “We know that the Canadian beef industry has a greenhouse gas footprint that is roughly half the global average…[this is] the best place to produce beef for the world,” Fulton says.

An absolute reduction of methane emissions versus focusing on the intensity of emissions per unit of production could mean Canadian beef becomes less competitive, and could push some beef production to higher-emitting system in other countries. And that seems backwards to Fulton. “It’s not doing the best that it can do for the environment and for that matter, for Canada’s economy.”

The cattle industry has already made its own emissions goals (you can read more about that at beefstrategy.com), and will lean on the research and work already done and in the works, however, Fulton adds that access to new technology, such as feed additives available elsewhere but not approved here, will also be a key focus when lobbying on behalf of the industry.

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