Market-based tools for accelerating cattle sustainability in Canada


Source: Karen Haugen-Kozyra, Market-based tools for accelerating cattle sustainability in Canada, Animal Frontiers, Volume 11, Issue 4, July 2021, Pages 17–25,

  • Canada provides a useful and interesting model for tools that can accelerate livestock sustainability, in particular, for the cattle sector. Globally, cattle are responsible for about 65% of livestock’s greenhouse gas emissions, with methane from enteric fermentation of feedstuffs and manure accounting for about 44% of the emissions.

  • This represents a unique opportunity for livestock-based solutions, facilitated by effective market mechanisms and tools, contributing to lower environmental impacts.

  • This paper discusses key drivers enabling the opportunity and uses case studies from Canada that are operational today to demonstrate what could be possible in other jurisdictions given similar circumstances and capabilities.


As a country, Canada is an interesting microcosm of carbon pricing policies and sustainability tools. Carbon pricing is a tool that can accelerate decarbonization across sectors. Several provinces have had subnational carbon pricing schemes in place since the 2007 to 2008 timeframe (British Columbia, Quebec, and Alberta). Starting in 2016, the federal government under the Trudeau Administration worked with the provinces to establish the “Pan Canadian Framework”—a plan that strives to implement a pan-Canadian approach to pricing carbon pollution and measures to achieve reductions across all sectors of the economy. The road to harmonization has not been an easy or a popular one, with several provinces having since elected conservative governments currently challenging the constitutionality of the federal government’s imposition of backstop greenhouse gas regulations at the Supreme Court of Canada. Nevertheless, the carbon pricing systems remain in place, with the opportunity for the non-covered sectors such as agriculture, forestry, and waste treatment to voluntarily generate carbon offsets and sell to the regulated sectors for compliance-meeting purposes. It is this latter context—the ability to extend the price incentive to reduce the carbon intensity of agricultural production—that drove the development of tools to monetize activities for lower carbon beef production in Alberta, that is now extending to the Federal Offset System and beyond Canada’s borders. This paper will focus on the evolution of several market-based tools at play in Canada driven by subnational, national, sectoral certification systems, and global actions, policies, and pledges.

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