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

Yoga with Goats instructor Samantha Richardson gets some attention from one of the goats while stretching on her mat June 15 at O’Keefe Ranch. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
Yoga gone to the goats at North Okanagan ranch

Get your downward dog on with some four-legged friends at O’Keefe

File Photo
Town of Princeton payroll increases 20 per cent in 2020

Thirteen employees earned more than $75,000

The defunct 100-year-old Enloe Dam on the Similkameen River in Washington State blocks access by salmon and steelhead to over 500 kilometres of high-quality river habitat, much of it in British Columbia. (Photo submitted by Alex Maier.)
An obsolete, environmentally harmful dam south of Osoyoos is one step closer to removal

The Enloe Dam hasn’t produced electricity since 1958; all it really does is block fish

With high temperatures forecasted for the week and into the next, Interior Health is offering some tips on how to keep yourself safe from heat-related illness. (Pixabay)
Interior Health offers safety tips as temperatures soar

‘Too much heat can be harmful to your health’

(Pixabay.com photo)
No COVID-19 baby boom in Summerland

Pandemic has not resulted in surge in births in 2020 and 2021

A person stands in a tower on the perimeter of the Number 3 Detention Center in Dabancheng in western China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region on April 23, 2021. Human rights groups and Western nations led by the United States, Britain and Germany accused China of massive crimes against the Uyghur minority and demanded unimpeded access for U.N. experts at a virtual meeting on Wednesday, May 12, 2021 denounced by China as “politically motivated” and based on “lies.” THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Mark Schiefelbein
VIDEO: Trudeau demands truth from China about Uyghurs

PM says Canada has admitted broken Indigenous relationship, unlike China on Uyghurs

Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran, middle right, participates in a ribbon-cutting ceremony in honour of the launch of Kelowna’s plasma donor centre at Orchard Plaza Mall on June 22. From left to right: Canadian Blood Services’ business development manager Janna Pantella, Canadian Blood Services’ operational excellence manager Tyler Burke, Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran and Canadian Blood Services’ centre manager Janine Johns. (Aaron Hemens/Capital News)
B.C.’s first dedicated plasma donor centre opens in Kelowna

The Kelowna location is the third dedicated plasma donor to open in Canada

Susan Kootnekoff is the founder of Inspire Law, an Okanagan based-law practice, and provides Kelowna Capital News with weekly stories from the world of local, national and international law. (Contributed)
Kootnekoff: Access to justice and residential schools in Canada

Susan Kootnekoff is the founder of Inspire Law, her diverse legal career spans over 20 years

Children walk with their parents to Sherwood Park Elementary in North Vancouver for the first day back to school on Sept. 10, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Study reassures parents, teachers that COVID-19 infrequently shared at school

Federally funded study in Vancouver finds risk in the classroom and in the community identical

Conservative MP Kevin Waugh rises during Question Period in the House of Commons Tuesday April 13, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Single-game sports betting about to become legal in Canada

Senate passes bill to take sports gambling away from overseas agencies

Point Roberts is part of the mainland United States but not physically connected to it, to reach the community by land one must pass through Canada. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Closed Canadian border leaves Point Roberts’ only grocery store on verge of closure

‘We’re Americans but we’re not attached to America. It’s easy to forget we’re here,’ says owner Ali Hayton

Mayla Janzen and Ashley Hoppichler, with her daughters Lily and Sophia, are bringing a Friday evening market to Polson Park, starting July 2. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
Entrepreneurs craft up Vernon night market

Friday evening Polson Park event to take place throughout the summer

Splatsin Chief Wayne Christian and Tina William lead the Every Child Matters March in Enderby Monday, June 21. (Lyndsey Leon photo)
Hundreds march with Splatsin in Enderby for #215

300 orange-shirt wearing people of all backgrounds turned out in support

Wade Cudmore, seen here with his mother Kathy Richardson, had his first court appearance in relation to first degree murder charges in the deaths of Erick and Carlo Fryer Tuesday, June 22, 2021. (Kathy Richardson/Facebook)
Man charged in Naramata double homicide appears in Penticton court

Wade Cudmore appeared for the first time in relation to first degree murder charges

Most Read