Manitoba

Coming carbon pricing scheme shouldn't alienate farmers, researcher says

Research suggests that greenhouse gas emissions could be reduced by moving toward a vegetarian diet, but one University of Winnipeg professor says in light of new developments in Ottawa, it’s important any forthcoming eco-minded policies don't alienate Manitoba farmers.

Professor Ian Mauro says cutting down carbon footprint on Prairies not as easy as eating less meat

Cutting down the amount of cattle we consume in Manitoba could help cut down carbon emissions, but how cattle farmers manage their land is also important. (CBC)

Research suggests that greenhouse gas emissions could be reduced by moving toward a vegetarian diet, but one University of Winnipeg professor says in light of new developments in Ottawa, it's important any forthcoming eco-minded policies don't alienate Manitoba farmers.

The House of Commons voted 207 to 81 to endorse the Paris agreement on climate change last week, after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau outlined a national carbon price plan last Monday that will begin in 2018.

As the federal government gets ready to roll out a national carbon pricing plan, Ian Mauro, professor of geography at the University of Winnipeg, said shifting attitudes on meat consumption and carbon reduction models need to be sensitive to life on the Prairies.

"We cannot move forward with the climate action and the climate policy that alienates our farm community, whether or not they are growing veggies and grains or meat and dairy," Mauro said.

Around the world, agriculture in general accounts for between 14 and 20 per cent of total global carbon emissions every year, Mauro said. Livestock in particular accounts for about 14.5 per cent of global emissions, Mauro added.

"That's a staggering amount," Mauro said. "What's happening in our bellies is a significant part of greenhouse gas emissions and it's a significant area for change."

Because it's easier to raise cattle than grow vegetables on the Prairies in the winter, Mauro said the solution in Manitoba may not be as simple as eating less meat.

Mauro said many farmers in Manitoba are already part of the carbon solution because of the way they are managing their land. Some are grass feeding their animals and creating more pasture land, which adds carbon to the soil and can be part of the solution," he added.

"These animals are actually mimicking bison. They are mimicking that kind of historical system on the Prairies and that actually creates re-growth of a bunch of plant material in the fields," Mauro said.

Mauro supports the carbon tax being mulled by the Trudeau government, but doesn't want to see it hurt small farms.

"We have to have a smart policy. We have to implement a policy that actually creates incentives for farmers to benefit from being proactive on climate," he said.

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