The Next Green Revolution: How Canada can produce more food and fewer emissions

March 30, 2023 | John Stackhouse, Senior Vice President, RBC Economics and Thought Leadership Keith Halliday, Director, BCG Centre for Canada’s Future Evan Fraser, Director, Arrell Food Institute at the University of Guelph


It’s reshaping the economy, as food prices take inflation higher. It’s redefining national security, as countries reckon with the prospect of strategic supplies. And it’s resetting the climate conversation, as producers and consumers grapple with the need for more food with fewer emissions.

The world needs a new Green Revolution, and Canada can play a leading role. Indeed, we must.

By 2050, we must increase our food production by a quarter just to maintain our contribution as the world’s population swells. We need to grow more for humanity, with less impact on the planet. This can be Canada’s moonshot for 2030 and beyond, if we can harness the imagination and enterprise of Canadians in every sector and geography.

The coming age of disruption, in agriculture and food systems, compelled RBC, BCG Centre for Canada’s Future and Arrell Food Institute at the University of Guelph to take on this project, to help inform and inspire Canadians to see both the urgent need and growing opportunity that will come with more sustainable food systems.

The following report outlines how we can build those systems by:

Using breakthrough technologies as well as some well-established practices,

Attracting and training a new generation of farm and food innovators,

Investing in farmers to develop new economic incentives that reward
what they produce as well as what they preserve,

And boldly declaring to the world that Canadian agriculture can help everyone move more quickly to a world that has solved the climate crisis.

How we grow, process and consume food is not the key cause of our climate crisis. It can be a key solution. And with the right investments, it can become a made-in-Canada, farmed-in-Canada solution for the world.

Key Findings

  • Canada’s agriculture and food systems produce 93 megatonnes or just over 10% of our national greenhouse gas emissions annually.

  • If Canadian farmers maintain current practices and market share, these emissions could rise to 137 megatonnes as the world’s population increases 26% by 2050.

  • Key technologies and approaches that can cut emissions include carbon capture, utilization and storage, feed additives, anaerobic digesters, and precision technology.

  • Nature-based solutions that sequester carbon will also be critical. Soil carbon has the potential to be one of our most powerful tools, raising the amount of carbon stored in soil to as much as 35MT.

  • By engaging these technological and management solutions, and mobilizing finance and policy to support farmers, Canada can cut up to 40% of potential 2050 emissions.

  • New models are needed to reward the adoption of these solutions, to execute them at scale and to reduce uncertainty and risk for farmers.

  • A Canadian standard for measuring the impact of emissions-cutting activities could provide a vital tool for both compensating farmers and empowering policymakers and financial institutions to support activities.

  • A national effort, tailored to regional contexts and focused on the key pillars of technology, finance, skills and public policy, will be essential to increasing our production while also cutting emissions.