Since 2002 when NFU members passed a resolution urging Canada to ratify the Kyoto Accord, we have been officially calling for meaningful, fair and effective national and international action to address climate change, and for policies that allow farmers to manage and adapt to climate change impacts. Numerous NFU position statements, policy briefs and presentations have both highlighted the need to address climate change and provided good ideas for solutions that work for farmers and the food system. Our 2015 National Convention, Agriculture in a Changing Climate had workshops, panels, resolutions and debates that highlighted climate change impacts and pointed to ways we can improve our prospects by working together.
In 2018 the Saskatchewan government announced it would challenge the federal government’s authority to create a national greenhouse gas reduction plan using a baseline, revenue-neutral greenhouse gas emission pricing system. If successful, Saskatchewan’s action would make it impossible for Canada to implement an effective national greenhouse gas reduction program, or perhaps any national climate change mitigation policy. Thus, NFU members voted strongly in favour of a 2018 National Convention resolution empowering the NFU Board to apply to the courts as an intervenor in support of the federal government’s authority. The application, done in collaboration with several citizens groups, succeeded.
The NFU’s intervention in support of federal jurisdiction is not an endorsement of the current federal government’s greenhouse gas emission pricing measures. Rather, the NFU recognizes that a national framework needs to be created through the principles of co-operative federalism, and this requires federal leadership and enforcement powers. Co-operative federalism means provinces can tailor programs according to their own needs and context within national parameters and standards. Equitable results cannot be achieved if individual provinces are allowed to opt out, free-riding or unfairly undermining others’ efforts. An effective, coherent national program is needed for Canada’s greenhouse gas reduction efforts to be recognized internationally as a valid commitment under the Paris Accord.
In late December, the NFU submitted a sworn statement to the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal outlining the negative impacts climate change is already having on farmers, and why a national approach as proposed in (but not limited to) the Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act (GGPPA) is needed. Some of the key points in the affidavit are:
- Farmers will be hit hard in terms of water security, infrastructure damage, drought, erosion, wild fires, and other weather-related events caused by Climate Change.
- Farming is a source of GHG emissions, but also has practices that can sequester GHGs. Reducing emissions is not about rewarding industry for the status quo, it’s about changing best practices to facilitate new reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.
- A strategic price on pollution could have farmers pay fees based on emissions related to their operations, and receive refunds based on the relative size and production of their farms, rewarding farmers with below-average emissions, and inducing those with above-average emissions for their farm size to change their practices.
- A low-emission food system will be a low-input food system, which can increase net incomes
- A national strategy is needed to tackle the mitigation of Climate Change and that the Federal Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act is an important part of that strategy.
The full statement is posted on the NFU website page, Greenhouse Gas Act Constitutional Case
The Constitutional Questions Act Reference re: Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act will be heard starting 10 am February 13 and February 14 in Courtroom 7, Saskatchewan Court of Appeal, 2425 Victoria Avenue, Regina, SK.
Larry Kowalchuk is the lawyer for the interveners. The groups working together on the intervention are:
- Climate Justice Saskatoon (CJS)
- National Farmers Union (NFU)
- Saskatchewan Coalition for Sustainable Development (SCSD)
- Saskatchewan Council for International Cooperation (SCIC)
- Saskatchewan Electric Vehicle Club (SaskEV)
- The Council of Canadians: Prairie and Northwest Territories Region
- The Council of Canadians: Regina Chapter (COC: Regina)
- The Council of Canadians: Saskatoon Chapter (COC: Saskatoon)
- The New Brunswick AntiShale Gas Alliance (NBASGA)
- Youth of the Earth (YOTE)