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It is vital for Manitoba to reduce nitrous oxide if we are to reach our greenhouse gas reduction goals.

The most potent of the three major greenhouse gases is nitrous oxide.   It is 300 times more potent than carbon dioxide.   It makes up approximately 15% of the greenhouse gases produced annually in Manitoba, when expressed as carbon dioxide equivalents.   It is produced primarily as the result of the application of fertilizer containing nitrogen onto fields in Manitoba to help the crops grow.  Especially under wet conditions, the nitrogen applied is converted to nitrous oxide which is a gas and goes up into the atmosphere.  The conversion of nitrogen to nitrous oxide results in a loss of the nitrogen fertilizer for farmers and the production of a potent greenhouse gas which warms the planet.  Its importance is even greater when one considers that its residence time in the atmosphere is more than 100 years - usually given as about 112 years.

The NDP produced a climate change plan with a target to reduce greenhouse gases in Manitoba.  They failed to reach their targets largely because they forgot to consider agricultural emissions of nitrous oxide and methane.  Nitrous oxide production increased by 44% from 1990 to 2015 making it very difficult to achieve an overall reduction in greenhouse gases with such a big increase in nitrous oxide alone.

In their recently introduced climate change plan, the Pallister Conservatives similarly forgot to include nitrous oxide.  In fact, in their plan, they did not even mention nitrous oxide.  I raised this concern in question period today.   It was apparent that the Pallister government really does not know what it is doing when it comes to nitrous oxide.  This is sad, as there is benefit to farmers and to our climate from reducing nitrous oxide emissions and recent studies suggest there are effective ways to reduce the conversion of nitrogen to nitrous oxide to help farmers and our planet. For methods to reduce nitrous oxide emissions see this blog.

You can watch the video of my questions and the governments responses at this link - Manitoba and nitrous oxide production.

The full text of the exchange from Hansard is below:

Agriculture Industry - Nitrous Oxide Emissions

Hon. Jon Gerrard (River Heights): Madam Speaker, the government's climate change plan completely ignores fully one third of Manitoba's greenhouse gas emissions, including almost all methane and nitrous oxide, which, of course, come from agriculture. In fact, nitrous oxide is never mentioned in the government's plan, even though reducing a single ton of nitrous oxide emissions is the equivalent to reducing 300 tons of carbon dioxide.
      Helping farmers reduce nitrous oxide emissions would be better for the environment and for farmers' pocketbooks. Can the Minister for Sustainable Development explain why the government is doing nothing to help farmers reduce the most potent greenhouse gas?

Hon. Eileen Clarke (Acting Minister of Sustainable Development): I thank the member opposite for that question. And our Auditor General clearly reported that in previous years, the NDP totally failed to meet targets that were so unrealistic that they would have required the equivalent of every gas- and diesel-powered vehicle off of the road. The Auditor General noted that there was a lack of progress in reducing greenhouse gas emissions as well as in developing a plan for adapting a climate change impact.

Madam Speaker: The honourable member for River Heights, on a supplementary question.

Mr. Gerrard: It's true the Auditor General's report was pretty damning in terms of what happened under the NDP. But at the same time, Madam Speaker, the NDP failed, in part, because they forgot about agriculture.

Mr. Gerrard: Now, the Pallister government unfortunately has more holes than Swiss cheese. It ignores working with farmers to reduce the most potent greenhouse gas, nitrous oxide, and to ensure it goes into the ground to grow crops instead of into the air to warm the planet. I table 18 different ways to reduce nitrous oxide more than 30 per cent. Reaching this goal would cut greenhouse gas emissions equal to heating every home in Manitoba or driving every car in our province.  
      Does the minister think that farmers don't care about the environment? 

Madam Speaker: Order.

Ms. Clarke: I thank the member opposite for his comments. I think our government has been really going to task, meeting and talking to people all across this province about climate change and our new plan. And farmers are very engaged in these conversations. We listen not only to our farmers but we listen to every Manitoban, and they have the opportunities to be part of this process.

Madam Speaker: The honourable member for River Heights, on a final supplementary.

Mr. Gerrard: Sadly, nitrous oxide was not even mentioned once in this government's climate change plan. In fact, nitrous oxide, which is 300 times more potent as a warming agent than carbon dioxide and persists in the atmosphere for more than 100 years, is pretty important. On the NDP's watch, though, it went up by 44 per cent.
      This government talks about value for money. Now, reducing nitrous oxide would provide the biggest bang for their buck.
      Why is this government once again following in the footsteps of the NDP and ignoring one of the most effective and inexpensive ways to combat climate change?

Madam Speaker: The honourable minister of indigenous and municipal relations.

Ms. Clarke: I thank the member opposite.  Our government's very proud that we've developed not only a practical, but a measurable and realistic Made-in-Manitoba Climate and Green Plan that will protect our environment; it will foster green growth and spur innovation. And our plan will reduce emissions by 80,000 tons more than the federal carbon plan and cost Manitobans $260 million less. 


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