The Liberal government’s fertilizer emission reduction target will lead to zero net change in emissions by the year 2030.

Environment Canada’s recently published “Greenhouse gas and air pollutant emissions projections – 2023“ report has raised eyebrows regarding the effectiveness of certain federal government climate policies, particularly in the agricultural sector.

Despite the implementation of the federal government’s goal to reduce fertilizer emissions, Ottawa’s projections suggest that there will be no net reduction in emissions by the goal year.

The key focus lies on the “Additional Measures Scenario,” which encompasses the Liberal government’s ambitious target to slash fertilizer emissions by 30% below 2020 levels by the end of this decade.

A deeper dive into the data reveals an inconvenient reality for the federal Liberals: the projected emissions for 2030 under this scenario remain stagnant at 48 million metric tons of CO2, the same level historically recorded in 2020.

This prompted inquiries from True North to Environment Canada seeking clarification on the apparent lack of progress despite the government touting the so-called effectiveness of agriculture emission reduction targets.

Samuel Lafontaine, a spokesperson for Environment Canada, defended the projections, asserting that while the absolute emissions remain the same, he insisted there was a four million metric tonne reduction in carbon dioxide when compared to an alternative scenario.

“In the Emissions Projections Report EPR emissions reductions of policies and measures are estimated as a difference in projected emissions in a specific year (e.g. 2030) between a ‘business as usual’ scenario where the program is not implemented versus a scenario where the program exists, rather than a difference in sector’s emissions in a projected year versus sector’s current emissions,” said LaFontaine. 

“Thus, the estimated emissions reduction impacts referred to in the ERP for the Agriculture sector are simply the difference between projected 2030 emissions in the Reference Case and Additional Measures Case.”

Essentially the federal government is attributing a four-metric-ton reduction in emissions to the difference between two of its contrived models and not the historical 2020 emissions – on which the fertilizer target is based. 

“These 4 Mt of reductions are collectively attributable to the Agricultural Clean Tech Program and methane emissions reductions from the On Farm Climate Action Fund that were modelled, as well as the fertilizer emissions reductions,” explained LaFontaine.

When True North attempted to request further clarification on why the data showed a 0% reduction in emissions by the year 2030 under the scenario which includes the fertilizer target, Environment Canada did not respond further. 

Environment Canada’s latest data seems to confirm what some experts have been telling the federal government all along: that the fertilizer emission reduction target was an unnecessary burden on farmers that would have virtually no benefit for the climate.

Agrologist and CEO of AgvisorPRO told the House of Commons Environment Committee in Oct. 2022 that a 30% reduction in agricultural emissions, if achieved, would amount to a reduction of only about 0.0028% of 1% to global greenhouse gases. 

“It’s recognized that Canada produces about 1.6% of the global emissions. Agriculture is about 10% of Canada’s emissions, and fertilizer is 17% of agriculture’s emissions or 1.75% of Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions,” explained Saik. 

“So, if we reduced our emissions by 30% in Canada from all fertilizer sources, it would amount to 0.0028%.”

Farmers groups have even gone so far as to warn that the fertilizer emissions plan would have a devastating effect on economic viability. 

In November 2023, the Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities estimated that Western Canadian farmers could lose out on $841 million in revenues should the target be met.