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The biggest deficiency in the Pallister climate change plan is in the failure to address agricultural greenhouse gas emissions


In Estimates on Friday May 11, I asked Minister Squires about the government's plan to reduce agricultural greenhouse gas emissions.   The biggest failure in the Pallister plan was in not addressing agricultural emissions, even when there are potential wins for the climate and wins for agricultural producers in doing so.
Mr. Gerrard: 
      My second question has to do with the climate change plan. I was very disappointed that there wasn't an action plan for agriculture in the climate change [plan], and that nitrous oxide, for example, wasn't even mentioned, and that the agricultural emissions were estimated either 30 or 32 per cent, but they didn't include any of the gas or fossil fuel used in tractors, the heating of barns.
      I was talking with people with Keystone Agricultural Producers; they're saying that the numbers should be closer to 38 per cent. I'm not sure that it shouldn't even be 40 per cent.
      So, clearly, when it comes to agriculture, the minister needs to get rolling and needs to make sure that there are more accurate figures for the total number of greenhouse gases produced by agriculture.
      So my question, really, is: What is the minister doing with respect to agriculture and, specifically, with respect to nitrous oxide as a part of that?
Ms. Squires: The members opposite had asked a couple of questions rolled into one, there, so I'm going to try to get an answer specifically to each section of his question with my answer.
      The first one, regarding the carbon emissions report, we are limited to reporting, and we obtain all of our data exclusively from the National Inventory Report on carbon emissions. And so all of our numbers are reflected–are reflective of the findings of this report.
      Can there be efficiencies and accuracies improved on the National Inventory Report that all provinces and territories and the federal government use and that is controlled by the federal government? Absolutely, there can be improvements to that data. And we're working with our federal counterparts to ensure that that data is available, updated and accurate and enhanced upon.
      But I certainly do welcome the member's voice in working with the federal government to encourage them to constantly be improving the National Inventory Report data so that when we're talking about a–sector-by-sector emissions or when we're talking about other initiatives, it's very important that we're actually seeing what is being put into the atmosphere and what we're doing that is actually reducing the carbon emissions.
      And we can make evaluations based on programming that's working to reduce carbon emissions on a go-forward basis from that data. So we're really relying on that data to be effective, reliable and informative.
      So, in regards to what we're doing with agriculture as a whole, I do want to point out that our agriculture producers have been good stewards of this land for a century and more and more. And they will continue to be good stewards of the land. And we're looking forward to working with them as they adapt to a low-carbon future. And we know that they are going to be a huge part of the answer as we move to the low-carbon future.
      We have–we are developing the concept of a centre for sustainable agriculture that will be–it will build capacity for agriculture-related climate change research and how we can get to having decreased emissions of GHGs, enhanced sequestration of carbon in the soil and greater resiliency to extreme weather.
      If members opposite will recall, we just had introduced and had a committee stage for our Bill 7, The Sustainable Watersheds Act. And that will enable GROW, and I'm certain that the member opposite is familiar with the initiative of GROW, the GRowing Outcomes in Watersheds, which is the made-in-Manitoba approach to ALUS, and that will enhance our ecological goods and services in the province and, ultimately, it will be taking lands out of production and helping enable these landowners, which will predominately be farmers, that will be taking, you know, areas of their land that are by and large unharvestable, taking them permanently out of production to grow grass and wetlands and trees, which all will sequester carbon.
      And so, as we expand the acres of land that are taken out of production through GROW, we will be sequestering even more carbon. We will be doing, with–through our no-net-loss-of-wetlands initiative, we will be ensuring that we've got enhancements of our wetlands. Seventy per cent of Manitoba was once a wetland, and while we're probably not going to get all that wetland back into the province–I think this building was probably situated on a wetland a couple of centuries ago–and we know that we're probably not going to restore all of those wetlands, but the more wetlands that we can restore and enhance and preserve and protect in this province is going to have enormous ecological benefits down the road at sequestering carbon. 
      And so our Made-in-Manitoba Climate and Green Plan does propose a number of initiatives to be working with our agriculture producers to help them transition to the low carbon future, and, ultimately, many producers have been on the front lines of climate change for years and continue to feel those effects probably more acutely than you and I who are urban dwellers and are perhaps not as exposed and in touch with the land as they are.

Mr. Gerrard: I thank the minister, and certainly we need to be working closely with farmers and agriculture producers as we move forward.

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