Resolution 4-19: Carbon Credits for Permanent Pasture and Forested Lands

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED THAT ALBERTA’S AGRICULTURAL SERVICE BOARDS REQUEST that Alberta Agriculture and Forestry develop a process to allow farmers and landowners to access carbon credits for land used for permanent pasture, perennial forage crops or land that is left forested.

Response:

AGRICULTURE AND FORESTRY

AF recognizes that carbon sequestration will be an important source of emissions reductions, and we support market-based approaches to emissions reductions that compensate producers for doing their part to combat climate change.

Under the Climate Change and Emissions Management Act and the associated regulations, Alberta policy is for measurement and mitigation of ail greenhouse gases (GHGs). The regulations specify 23 different gases, three of which are common in the agriculture sector:  carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, and methane.

The development of offset protocols requires careful consideration to ensure they are science-based, verifiable, and robust. Protocols must consider all relevant or affected GHG emissions. Changes in nitrous oxide and methane must also be taken into account, as well as carbon/carbon dioxide. Additional considerations include:

  • Establishing science-based baselines;
  • Determination of clear, well-defined geographical boundaries;
  • Establishing a framework; Identifying monitoring, verification, and reporting requirements;
  • Ensuring permanence and avoiding leakage;
  • Ensuring proper valuation of credits (quantification of the impact of an action and proper economic valuation);
  • Establishing legal and institutional frameworks; and Organizing stakeholders and obtaining ‘buy-in*.

Offsets are measured by the difference in emissions when a producer changes their practices or implements a technology (not in a business-as-usual state); that is, it is not about total carbon in the soil, but how soil carbon is altered with a change in management. Offsets in perennial agriculture crops, for example, include a livestock component. Management changes to produce more forages may promote more cattle (fed on or off the field) releasing more methane and nitrous oxide. The positive change in carbon may, thus, be reduced by the increased production of these other two gases.

AF is currently working with the Alberta Climate Change Office to develop a carbon sequestration protocol for forestry in collaboration with stakeholders. The Government of Alberta may consider developing additional protocols, including permanent pasture or perennial forage crops, as science and policy evolves to make them a market opportunity.

ENVIRONMENT AND PARKS

Environment and Parks administers the Alberta Emission Offset System, and Agriculture and Forestry often provides valuable input into the protocol development process. Currently, the Carbon Competitiveness Incentive Regulation (CCIR) enables the Alberta Emission Offset System. A government-approved quantification protocol is required for activities to generate emission offsets. There are currently no approved protocols for the activities list by ASB (permanent pasture, perennial crops and land left forested).

Organizations interested in developing a protocol for a reduction or sequestration activity may submit a request to develop a protocol to Environment and Parks. Information on the process and the template for submitting a request is available in the “Technical Guidance for Offset Protocol Development and Revision” (July 2018), which you can find by searching for the document’s title at https://open.alberta.ca/publications.

Environment and Parks evaluates requests and selects protocols to be developed or revised. Factors considered in the selection process include available resources, magnitude of potential reductions, ability to accurately quantify reductions or sequestration, additionality and alignment with policy priorities. The deadline to submit a request is the end of calendar year. If a protocol is not selected, the protocol developer is welcome to submit another request the following year.

Biological sequestration protocols are challenging because the science is still evolving for measurement, monitoring and quantification of land and trees as bouth sources and sinks for atmospheric carbon dioxide. It is also challenging to quantify incremental reduction or sequestration due to implementing a management practice or technology. There must be an increase in the rate of sequestration compared with the baseline scenario, and the increase must be measured and quantified in a way the meets the rigour of Alberta’s regulatory system.