Swine sector targets emissions strategies for post-Kyoto world

ALBERTA - Kyoto is coming, the swine industry must grapple with it and the sector is already taking steps to meet the challenges of a post-Kyoto world ...
calendar icon 22 January 2003
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...- that was the bottom line message delivered to approximately 800 swine industry leaders at the Banff Pork Seminar, held January 14-17.

Speakers Dr. Marlo Raynolds and Dr. Tim Ball fed opposing sides of the scientific and political debates surrounding the Kyoto Protocol, as part of a keynote session on "How Kyoto will affect our competitiveness," with both acknowledging implementation of the Protocol is fast-becoming a reality. A separate session showcased how the swine industry is planning for this implementation, through a broad effort toward research-based management practices to reduce greenhouse gas emissions targeted by the Protocol.

Raynolds, Director of the Eco-Solutions Group at the Pembina Institute, reported on the status of the Protocol and its backing from the scientific community. Canada is among 28 industrialized countries that have ratified the Protocol. It has a target to reduce greenhouse emissions to 6 percent below 1990 levels by between 2008 and 2012, and must show "demonstratable progress" by 2005. Raynolds says only Russia's ratification, which is expected early this year, is needed for the Protocol to become legally binding.

"The Kyoto Protocol will very likely come into force internationally, and Canada will have to meet the challenge - it's not going away," says Raynolds, representing the non-profit environmental organization. "The vast majority of the corporate sector and governments have basically said 'we're beyond the science now, let's get down to finding some solutions.'"

For the swine industry, there are few details on what specific requirements it will have to meet. But it's likely that today's "best practices" for reducing emissions will eventually be required by regulation, he says. The agriculture sector represents approximately 8.2 percent of Canada's total emissions, and its 1.7 percent increase in emissions from 1990 to 2000 compares well with other industries. The sector also has good potential to gain lucrative emissions "credits" through improved practices in areas such as soil carbon sequestration and manure management.

"It's pretty clear that measures will be developed that affect the pork industry," says Raynolds "We need to increase the awareness of what those measures are or could be and how they'll impact the industry - how do you turn those into opportunities, how do you turn that into competitive advantage. It's important to remember that environmental regulations, if designed properly, can spark innovations and actually make us more competitive."

While Kyoto may be close to reality, the science and politics behind it leave a bad taste with some observers, says Tim Ball, a Victoria-based environmental consultant who strongly questioned the Protocol's scientific basis.

"The Kyoto Protocol is a political solution to a non-existent problem without scientific justification," says Ball. "There's no doubt the world has warmed, but it has warmed and cooled throughout history. The global warming discussion is about the unsupportable claim that 20th Century warming is due to increases in carbon dioxide from human sources. Most are unaware that the scientific theory and evidence do not support this."

Debates aside, the swine industry has already started to prepare for tighter restrictions on greenhouse gas emissions, says speaker Dr. Ron Ball of the Swine Research and Technology Centre of the University of Alberta. At a session on "Management Practices to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions," Ball and colleagues outlined progress in manure storage, feeding strategies, genetics and other areas to measure and reduce emissions.

"Despite the rhetoric on all sides, we have heard very little about the potential impact of Kyoto on animal agriculture, and specifically on the pork industry," says Ron Ball. "We need to find practical ways for pork producers to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the pig. Research is and will continue to be a key part of the progress we're making towards that."

The Banff Pork Seminar, held annually since 1972, is one of the premier pork seminars in North America. The Seminar is coordinated by the Department of Agricultural, Food and Nutritional Sciences, University of Alberta, in cooperation with Alberta Pork, Alberta Agriculture, Food and Rural Development and other pork industry representatives. Full program and proceedings of the 2003 Banff Pork Seminar are available on the new Seminar Web site, www.banffpork.ca.

Source: Banff Pork Seminar - January 2003

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