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

Graeme Roberts, who was mayor of Nanaimo from 1984-86, died this month at age 89. (Photo courtesy Nanaimo Community Archives)
City of Nanaimo flags at half-mast as former mayor Graeme Roberts dies at 89

‘Giant-killer’ beat out Frank Ney in mayoral election in 1984

Curl B.C. chairperson Teri Palynchuk is this year’s winner of the Janette Robbins Award for leadership. Palynchuk is pictured here with the Curling Canada Foundation Cup along with past chairperson Peter Muir, left, and Curl B.C. CEO Scott Braley. (Photo courtesy Curl B.C.)
Nanaimo curling exec wins Curl B.C. leadership award

Teri Palynchuk receives Janette Robbins Award

(Black Press file photo)
RCMP: Air ambulance called to Whiskey Creek after crash involving 2 motorbikes

Both riders taken to hospital with serious injuries

Vancouver courthouse. (Photo: Tom Zytaruk)
Man loses bid to appeal conviction for 1999 rape at Abbotsford music festival

James Redden, 53, formerly of Nanaimo, was found guilty in 2019 following six-day trial

Nanaimo author B.S. Thompson has released his debut novel, ‘The Book of Nodd.’ (Photo courtesy Nora Funk)
Nanaimo author invites readers into dangerous world of dreams in debut novel

B.S. Thompson unveils ‘The Book of Nodd’ with online launch June 20

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

Rick Ruppenthal of Saltair will host a 12-hour talk-a-thon Friday, June 18 over Facebook live. (Photo submitted)
Talk-a-thon to focus on men’s mental health issues

Island man spearheading a campaign to generate more conversation during fundraiser

Ivy was thrown out of a moving vehicle in Kelowna. Her tail was severely injured and will be amputated. (BC SPCA)
Kitten thrown from moving vehicle, needs help: Kelowna SPCA

The seven-month-old kitten had severe tail and femur injuries

The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre estimates that less than five per cent of mass-marketing fraud is ever reported.
Tips to avoid scams targeting Vancouver Island seniors

In most cases, fraudsters impersonate an individual, business or agency seniors recognize and trust

A health-care worker holds up a sign signalling she needs more COVID-19 vaccines at the ‘hockey hub’ mass vaccination facility at the CAA Centre during the COVID-19 pandemic in Brampton, Ont., on Friday, June 4, 2021. This NHL-sized hockey rink is one of CanadaÕs largest vaccination centres. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
‘Vaxxed to the max’: Feds launch Ask an Expert campaign to encourage COVID shots

Survey shows that confidence in vaccines has risen this spring

Port Alberni court house (Alberni Valley News)
Inquest set into 2016 death of B.C. teen after a day spent in police custody

18-year-old Jocelyn George died of heart failure in hospital after spending time in jail cell

Children’s shoes and flowers are shown after being placed outside the Ontario legislature in Toronto on Monday, May 31, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Ontario commits $10 million to investigate burial sites at residential schools

Truth and Reconciliation Commission identified 12 locations of unmarked burial sites in Ontario

Singer-songwriter Jann Arden is pictured with a draft horse. (Canadian Horse Defence Coalition)
Jann Arden backs petition to stop ‘appalling’ live horse export, slaughter

June 14 is the International Day to End Live Export of Animals

Two hundred and fifteen lights are placed on the lawn outside the Residential School in Kamloops, B.C., Saturday, June, 13, 2021. The remains of 215 children were discovered buried near the former Kamloops Indian Residential School earlier this month. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Days after Kamloops remains discovery, Tk’emlups families gather to unite, move ahead

‘We have to work together because this is going to be setting a precedent for the rest of the country’

Most Read