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

The Trail Smoke Eaters will open the 2021 season on Oct. 8 against the Cranbrook Bucks in Cranbrook, and will have their home opener the next night against the same Bucks. Photo: Jack Murray
BC Hockey League announces 54-game schedule to begin in October

Trail Smoke Eaters open season with home-and-home series versus Cranbrook Bucks

Daryl Jolly, his wife Kerry Pagdin, their sons Cole Jolly (left) and Graeme Jolly, and their dogs Gracie and Clover. Photo: Submitted
Selkirk College arts chair diagnosed with lung cancer, family launches fund drive

Daryl Jolly co-founded the college’s digital arts program

TELUS is proposing to construct a 5G tower at Pople Park. Photo: Sheri Regnier
First 5G tower in Trail proposed for placement in popular park

TELUS has a consultation process open until June 28

The Kootenay International Junior Hockey League met for their AGM and announced a number of new initiatives, new awards and changes in their executive committee, as well as the starting date for the 2021-22 season. Paul Rodgers file.
KIJHL announces start dates for 2021-22 season

Season set to begin Oct. 1 with league still following all health guidelines

South Slocan’s Ti Loran is among the recipients of this year’s Neil Muth Memorial Scholarship. Photo: Submitted
Neil Muth Memorial Scholarships awarded to 4 students

Students in Creston, South Slocan and Revelstoke are sharing the honour

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

(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

(pixabay file shot)
B.C. ombudsperson labels youth confinement in jail ‘unsafe,’ calls for changes

Review states a maximum of 22 hours for youth, aged 12 from to 17, to be placed in solitary

Grace (left), a caribou that was born in a maternal pen north of Revelstoke, is alive and well said the province. It appears she even has a calf. Maternity pens aim to increase caribou calf survival by protecting them from predation until they are older and less vulnerable. (Contributed)
For the first time in years, caribou numbers increasing near Revelstoke

North herd growing but south herd still concerning

Eleonore Alamillo-Laberge, 6, reads a book in Ottawa on Monday, June 12, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Parents will need to fight ‘COVID learning slump’ over summer: B.C. literacy experts

Parents who play an active role in educating their children this summer can reverse the slump by nearly 80%, says Janet Mort

Kelowna General Hospital. (File photo)
COVID-19 outbreak at Kelowna General Hospital declared over

Three people tested positive for the virus — two patients and one staff — one of whom died

The border crossing on Highway 11 in Abbotsford heading south (file)
Western premiers call for clarity, timelines on international travel, reopening rules

Trudeau has called Thursday meeting, premiers say they expect to leave that meeting with a plan

The B.C. government’s vaccine booking website is busy processing second-dose appointments, with more than 76 per cent of adults having received a first dose. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C.’s COVID-19 infections, hospitalizations stable for Tuesday

108 new confirmed cases, 139 in hospital, 39 in intensive care

Most Read