CCA Statement on global climate change agreement

Calgary, AB - The Canadian Cattlemen’s Association (CCA) looks forward to learning more about the global climate change agreement reached in Paris on Saturday and to meeting with Minister of Environment and Climate Change Catherine McKenna and other officials to learn what the commitments are and how the Canadian beef sector fits into the new agreement.

The Canadian beef industry is well positioned as a leader in environmental stewardship. Canadian beef producers are already actively engaged in reducing environmental footprints, including greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, through continual improvements in health programs, sustainable production and innovation.

The CCA is a member of the Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef, which in 2014 set the definition of sustainable beef production as ‘socially responsible, environmentally sound and economically viable product that prioritizes the planet, people, animals and progress.’

In Canada, the CCA spearheaded the Canadian Roundtable for Sustainable Beef (CRSB), a multi-stakeholder roundtable that consists of over 80 members and observers across the value chain, working together to continuously improve the sustainability of the beef industry.

Overall, Canada already has one of the lowest environmental footprints of any beef producing country in the world. According to Environment Canada statistics submitted to the UN, beef accounts for four per cent of Canada’s GHG, and Canada’s GHG are two per cent of the world’s total GHG production. Together, these statistics mean that Canada’s beef industry contributes less than one tenth of one per cent to the world’s GHG production. Even so, there are many ongoing research projects and programs to further reduce this impact.

The Beef Cattle Research Council (BCRC) devotes a significant portion of research funding to improving production efficiencies that contribute to reducing the environmental footprint of cattle production. Ongoing research includes measuring GHG intensities of beef production in Canada to make further improvements. Historical context will be provided by a Beef Science Cluster project led by Dr. Tim McAllister with Agriculture and Agri-food Canada. That study is measuring how Canada’s beef industry’s feed, land, and water use, GHG production, carbon sequestration and biodiversity have changed over the past 30 years. A peer-reviewed scientific publication detailing how many fewer resources are used and fewer GHGs emitted per kilogram of Canadian beef produced in 2011 compared to 1981 is expected early in January 2016.

Looking forward, the CRSB is conducting the National Beef Sustainability Assessment for the Canadian beef industry which will serve as a scorecard that identifies where the industry has made improvements and where it can still do better. The information this body of work encompasses is important; sound science helps to provide factual information to inform government policy, regulation decisions and consumer choices.

McDonald’s has chosen Canada as the pilot country for its Verified Sustainable Beef Pilot Project for good reason and it is partnering with the CRSB to share the lessons learned from that. Bottom line, having healthy agricultural landscapes with livestock on the land in Canada contributes to the environmental solution.

In addition to this ongoing work, the CCA has three main suggestions to help the Government of Canada with its climate change commitments:

First, invest in Canadian agriculture research. Canada is one of the largest producers and exporters of food worldwide and our products have some of the lowest GHG footprints. Agriculture research plays a key role in this.

Secondly, work to conserve grasslands. In Canada, we have only 30 per cent of our grasslands remaining intact. Canadian grasslands are a very large store of carbon, storing up to 200 tons of carbon per hectare. Grasslands that are managed by Canadian cattle producers do more than produce beef. They support ecosystem services such as wildlife habitat, biodiversity conservation, and water quality. Also, nearly one-third (31.2%) of Canada’s agricultural lands are covered in grasses and forages (20 million hectares.) The majority of those lands are in natural grasses (14.7 million hectares.) These grasslands are particularly important habitat for Canada’s migratory birds.

Finally, work together. The CCA works globally on climate issues with numerous groups and the research and development done here in Canada could help to inform work occurring around the globe.

For further information, contact:
Gina Teel
Communications Manager
Canadian Cattlemen’s Association
403-275-8558 x 306 | teelg@cattle.ca
www.cattle.ca