The Greenwich peninsula portion of Prince Edward Island National Park is seen on Tuesday, Aug. 29, 2017. A new report says Canada could reach one-third of its greenhouse gas reduction targets by making better use of its vast forests, prairies and wetlands. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan

The Greenwich peninsula portion of Prince Edward Island National Park is seen on Tuesday, Aug. 29, 2017. A new report says Canada could reach one-third of its greenhouse gas reduction targets by making better use of its vast forests, prairies and wetlands. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan

Study outlines ‘natural climate solutions’ to help Canada meet emissions targets

Report lists 24 nature-based ways for Canada to help cut carbon emissions by 78 million tonnes

Canada could cut its current greenhouse gas emissions by more than one-tenth by making better use of its vast forests, prairies and wetlands, says a report by more than three dozen scientists.

The researchers from universities, governments and environmental groups say a good portion of those emissions cuts could be made for under $50 a tonne, less than next year’s carbon tax.

“Natural climate solutions are relatively cost-effective ways to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions,” said Amanda Reed, who co-ordinated the research for Nature United, the Canadian affiliate of The Nature Conservancy.

Grassland soils, peat-rich wetlands and old-growth forests store large amounts of carbon, said Reed. But they could store even more if Canadians farmed, logged and developed differently.

The report says agriculture offers the biggest chance for carbon savings.

At current rates, about 2.5 million hectares of native grassland are expected to be converted to crops by 2030. Cultivation releases carbon from the soil into the air.

Preventing that would keep almost 13 million tonnes of carbon in the ground, the report says. About 13 per cent of those savings could be accomplished for less than $50 a tonne.

Halting the conversion of wetlands, which store vast amounts of carbon in peat and other plant material, could cut emissions by another 15 million tonnes — one-fifth of which could be done for less than $50.

Planting cover crops could sequester another 10 megatonnes without reducing cash crop cultivation, the report suggests.

Forestry would offer another eight megatonnes in annual savings through conservation of old-growth forests, improving regrowth and ensuring wood waste was turned into usable products such as biochar, a high-carbon wood residue that can be used to improve soil.

Those savings could be made while still producing 90 per cent of Canada’s current forest cut, says the report, and almost half would come under the $50 threshold.

In all, the report lists 24 nature-based ways for Canada to help cut carbon emissions by 78 million tonnes a year by 2030.

“Natural climate solutions are available now,” said Reed. “We don’t have to wait for new technology to come along.”

She emphasized that nature can’t do all the work. Other approaches to cutting greenhouse gases, from carbon taxes to clean fuel standards, will still be needed.

“We have a really big crisis. We need to do all of those things. We need to have a broad policy that decreases fossil fuel use.”

But using nature to reduce emissions also has other benefits, she said. It can boost biodiversity, reduce flood risk and ensure clean water supplies.

“Natural climate solutions not only mitigate greenhouse gases, but they also advance all of these other things.”

The most recent federal budget included $4 billion for nature-based climate measures. The Forest Products Association of Canada has pledged to cut its emissions by 30 million tonnes by 2030.

Reed said interest has grown since a 2017 global report concluded that such measures could help reach about one-third of the carbon cuts the world needs to meet its reduction targets. The current report is modelled on that research, she said.

Researchers from nine universities, the Canadian government and environmental groups including the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in the United States all contributed to the report.

—Bob Weber, The Canadian Press

RELATED: Climate change health costs to top $100B by mid-century: report

Climate ChangeScience

Just Posted

Alberta premier Jason Kenney announced the province's reopening plan late last month and moved into Stage 1 of that plan Tuesday. (photography by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
Travel prizes added to Alberta’s vaccine lottery

More than 40 travel rewards available for those who are fully vaccinated

Stettler town hall
Town approves Canada Day fireworks show, using phase two health restrictions

The funding for the fireworks show has already been allocated

Castor Evangelical Missionary Church Pastor Brent Siemens, celebrating five years in Castor, reflects on the journey that brought him to the community. Kevin J. Sabo photo
Castor pastor celebrates five years of serving the community

Brent Siemens is the pastor of Castor’s Evangelical Missionary Church

(Advocate file photo)
Red Deer down to 102 active COVID-19 cases

Central zone has 332 cases with 26 in hospital and five in ICU

People watch a car burn during a riot following game 7 of the NHL Stanley Cup final in downtown Vancouver, B.C., in this June 15, 2011 photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Geoff Howe
10 years ago: Where were you during the 2011 Vancouver Stanley Cup Riots?

Smashed-in storefronts, looting, garbage can fires and overturned cars some of the damage remembered today

A nurse prepares a shot of the COVID-19 vaccine at the Yukon Convention Centre in Whitehorse on Wednesday, March 3, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Mike Thomas
Vancouver couple pleads guilty to breaking Yukon COVID rules, travelling for vaccine

Chief Judge Michael Cozens agreed with a joint sentencing submission,

People line up to get their COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination centre, Thursday, June 10, 2021 in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Vaccines, low COVID case counts increase Father’s Day hope, but risk is still there

Expert says people will have to do their own risk calculus before popping in on Papa

COVID-related trash is washing up on shorelines across the world, including Coldstream’s Kal Beach, as pictured in this May 2021 photograph. (Jennifer Smith - Black Press)
Shoreline cleanup finds COVID-related trash increased during height of the pandemic

Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup reports litter from single-use food packaging nearly doubled

Doctor David Vallejo and his fiancee Doctor Mavelin Bonilla hold photos of themselves working, as they kiss at their home in Quito, Ecuador, Wednesday, June 9, 2021. Doctor Vallejo and Doctor Bonilla suspended their wedding in order to tend to COVID-19 patients and in the process Vallejo got sick himself with the disease, ending up in an ICU for several days. (AP Photo/Dolores Ochoa)
Love, sacrifice and surviving COVID-19: one couple’s story

COVID hits Ecuadorian doctors who delayed wedding to treat sick

Three calves were recently shot dead in Lacombe County near Mirror. (Photo from Facebook)
Calves shot and left for dead in central Alberta

Bashaw RCMP investigating three shootings

Tuesday’s Lotto Max draw went unclaimed. (Photo courtesy of BCLC)
Tuesday’s Lotto Max draw went unclaimed. (Photo courtesy of BCLC)
Lotto Max jackpot goes unclaimed again

42 of the 64 Maxmillion prizes of $1 million were won, the majority were sold in Ontario

FILE - This July 6, 2017 file photo shows prescription drugs in a glass flask at the state crime lab in Taylorsville, Utah. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File)
Contaminants in generic drugs may cause long-term harm to DNA: B.C. researcher

Scientist says findings suggest high volume overseas facilities require strict regulation

(Black Press Media file)
Dirty money: Canadian currency the most germ-filled in the world, survey suggests

Canadian plastic currency was found to contain 209 bacterial cultures

Most Read