Viresco recently completed a technical review identifying the current state of Life Cycle Analyses (LCA) practice and scientific approaches that developers and users of carbon footprinting tools are applying in beef farm-gate assessments. In so doing, the report provides a roadmap of applicable LCA standards, other sectoral approaches, available guidance on beef carbon footprinting methods, and how users and developers of specific assessments/tools are making methodological choices and decisions. In particular, the report focuses on areas of ambiguity in LCA application and understanding gaps and various data sources that can lead to divergence in results. The review describes the latest science on Global Warming Potentials (GWPs), soil/tree carbon sequestration, and land-use change (LUC) – important aspects that need consensus. This review provides recommendations for moving forward and is designed to set the stage for discussing how a standardized framework for beef carbon footprinting can be developed to give more consistency in results. This review also captures current efforts by organizations conducting similar comparisons between beef footprinting tools/methods for the purpose of aligning results and informing the next phase of work.
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Viresco was pleased to work with a Technical Advisory Group to develop a Roadmap report is to assist developers in the choice of approaches that quantify soil organic carbon (SOC) as a measurable ecosystem good or service (EGS) from Canadian grazing and forage lands (herein called collectively ‘grasslands’). Although grasslands occupy nearly half of the land used for agriculture in Canada, the ability to confidently, reliably, and practically estimate changes in SOC under grazing and forage management practices is a gap in Canadian science. The ultimate objective (beyond the scope of this report) is to be able to build a system that will quantify the impact of grassland management on SOC to enable SOC to be established as a quantifiable and transactable EGS that will thereby encourage increased adoption of beneficial management practices (BMPs) to increase those EGS. The roadmap was developed with significant stakeholder consultation and feedback from two Technical Advisory Group (TAG) meetings and a broader stakeholder workshop including stakeholders from academia, government, private-sector, environmental market experts, and industry groups.
The proposed roadmap provides a feasible and incremental route that effectively leverages resources to accomplish the SOC quantification needed to more effectively focus investment and action to achieve healthier, SOC-enriched agricultural land for Canada.
The full report can be found here.
The business case for the retention and restoration of Alberta’s wetlands and grasslands as critical biological carbon stores and sinks is clear. In addition to providing a myriad of cost-effective ecosystem services, including water quality improvements, flood, and drought mitigation, socio-economic and recreational benefits, they sequester and store a substantial amount of carbon. Biological carbon stores represent an important natural capital asset and can play an important role in helping Alberta and Canada meet their national and international greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reduction targets. The significant benefits provided by the presence of these ecosystems on the landscape is recognized directly and indirectly in a number of provincial and federal priorities and the retention of existing healthy ecosystems, and restoration of historically lost or impaired ecosystems, aligns with the objectives of green infrastructure investment opportunities.
This report builds on the outcomes of the companion “Business Case” report to describe potential pathways to implement wetland and grassland retention and restoration activities, with the central intention of maintaining carbon stores, increasing biological carbon sequestration, and adapting to climate change.
The full report can be accessed here.
Alberta is host to significant carbon management and climate adaptation tools in the form of wetlands (including freshwater mineral soil wetlands in the parkland, prairie and boreal regions, and boreal peatlands) and perennial grasslands. The retention and minimization of functional impacts to these ecosystems is essential to maintaining a biological carbon store of 39-43 billion tCO2e, and sequestration of 33,535,000 tCO2e (equivalent to 7 million passenger vehicles) per year, with an estimated average value of $2.5 billion per year (Sawyer and Bataille 2017).
Viresco authored a report describing the business case for the retention and minimization of functional impacts to remaining wetland and grassland ecosystems in Alberta as cost-effective carbon management tools, that also provide many additional ecosystem services that align with federal and provincial priorities. The case is also made for the restoration of historically lost ecosystems to restore lost carbon management and climate adaptation services. Existing conservation and stewardship tools are explored to provide insight into regulatory approaches, and government and NGO incentive-based options to realize wetland and grassland retention and restoration aims.
To see the detailed report click here.
Viresco is leading a project co-funded by the Government of Alberta, McDonalds, and Alberta Beef Producers to make real progress on linking farmers with high-level sustainability targets being set by multi-nationals.
Working closely with the Cool Farm Alliance, Anthesis Group, and most importantly, Alberta’s beef farmers, we are adapting the Cool Farm Tool to effectively track emissions from beef production and identify practical opportunities to improve the footprint of Canada’s beef production. By doing so, we are making critical steps to enable private-sector investment in Canada’s beef farmers, in return for an improved environmental footprint of beef products, opening opportunities for Canadian beef to be marketed as a premium low-carbon product.
Viresco is actively working to create a line-of-sight between the farmer and large multinationals with corporate GHG commitments while challenging the current narrative around beef production.
The “Scalable on Farm Greenhouse Gas Reductions and Water Quality Improvements: Development and Implementation of an Economical and Verifiable Insetting and Accounting Framework” project began in December 2016. With funding support from the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service’s (NRCS’s) Conservation Innovation Grants (CIG) Program, Bayer, NCGA and partners began work to develop a unique and comprehensive value chain intervention that places climate-smart agricultural practices on the right acres, verify the success and impact of those practices, and ultimately create a replicable approach for corporate carbon emissions reduction in their supply chain. In this CIG project, participating companies partnered with farmers in their supply chain who took steps to reduce Greenhouse Gases on their farms.
The CIG Project is the second intervention, globally, to achieve Design Certification under the Value Chain Intervention Guidance and Gold Standard for the Global Goals (GS4GG) (see (https://www.sustain-cert.com/press-release-2/). This achievement verifies that the project has followed best practice principles and is a key milestone toward unlocking credible value chain emissions reductions and removals aligned with corporate reporting, Science-based Targets and Net-Zero goals. Viresco has played a significant role in the design of the CIG Project Intervention framework, and has been supporting the development of a number of GS/SC Value Change Working Groups and Platform Labs including Use of Products Sold and EF Tracking Mechanisms.
Over 60 thought leaders from the Food, Beverage and Agriculture (FBA) supply chain sector gathered in Calgary, AB on June 18th & 19th to discuss how to increase the use of evidence-based systems to encourage, motivate and reward sustainable agriculture in North America.
Experts participated in a passionate and technically infused dialogue, sharing ideas, experiences and expertise and in so doing, generated the following outcomes:
•A shared Statement of Values to shape a Coalition for Action, based on a market for standardized sustainability outcomes and utilization and integration of existing tools, systems and platforms.
•A Common Understanding of why and how we can structure a North American Coalition focused on sustainability, integrating traceability and chain of custody solutions that span supply chains.
•A Clear set of Objectives to advance action, encourage engagement and value for the entire supply chain, and deepen the science and extension of sustainable management practices.
•A Framework for Success that identifies opportunities and gaps, assets and resources we can leverage to achieve shared priorities.
Viresco, DSM and a consortium of Alberta agricultural partners have worked together to demonstrate a feed ingredient for cattle that significantly reduces cattle-based methane emissions. The ingredient can be introduced to regular feeding regimes to reduce the methane produced by each animal, enabling substantial reductions in emissions from Alberta’s beef and dairy industries. This project is funded in part by Emissions Reduction Alberta.
Viresco developed and tested a Carbon Accounting and Insetting Framework for the National Corn Growers, Soil Health Partnership, Bayer and other partners through a USDA Conservation Innovation Grant. The Framework is designed to be adapted to a variety of practice changes for agri-businesses.
In this CIG project, participating companies partner with farmers in their supply chain who take steps to reduce Greenhouse Gases on their farms. Although many different pathways have been explored for corporate GHG reduction, such as purchasing offsets, the concept of insetting brings many co-benefits that offsetting doesn’t have. As an investment, insetting can move the company several steps closer to being carbon neutral, while also improving efficiency, strengthening communication and trust within the supply chain and improving communities.
Viresco Solutions worked with McDonalds to design an indicator/verification framework for beef production and processing and demonstrate that sustainably produced beef can be tracked through the supply chain. The team developed a series of indicators for use in Canada that align with the Global Roundtable on Sustainable Beef Principles and Criteria. Viresco Solutions was involved in field engagement, data analysis and developing the resources to train field managers to assist producers in evaluating their sustainability practices to prepare for verification. This enabled McDonalds to meet their objectives.
Viresco, in partnership with the University of Alberta, employed strong knowledge of biogas and waste-to-energy systems, alongside strategy development and analysis skills, to determine the benefits and barriers to growth of the biogas industry in Alberta. The analyses, research of other jurisdictions, and stakeholder engagement, led Viresco to propose cost-effective regulatory, funding and market-based strategies to drive biogas developments in Alberta. The findings are published in a publicly-available white paper.
The Bioenergy Producer Report Card details bioenergy production volumes, greenhouse gas emission reductions, and economic impacts of the bioenergy producers operating under the Bioenergy Producer Credit Program between 2007 – 2014. The Future Projections report extends the analysis to 2020 and includes new producers with plans to commission before 2020.
This work was updated in 2017 to more accurately report on the 2015 – 2016 production results and status of the industry under the new Bioenergy Producer Program.