Government has missed the chance to take farmers with them

October 22, 2019

New Zealand’s farmers will continue to work on their carbon emissions and water efficiencies on-farm, despite the government’s hugely unrealistic targets for methane.

"To say that we are disappointed with the reporting back by the Select Committee on the Zero Carbon Bill is a significant understatement," Federated Farmers vice president and climate change spokesperson Andrew Hoggard says.

This decision places a huge burden on farmers already feeling the heat from this government.

The Federated Farmers submission to the Select Committee was not the only one to point out there is clear scientific evidence around how methane’s warming impact should be accounted for.

Leading international climate scientists say we need to completely review the way the impact of livestock emissions as a major contributor to climate change is calculated.

This science shows that for methane from New Zealand’s livestock sector to no longer contribute to increased global temperatures all that is required is a 10% reduction by 2050 and then stable emissions after that.

"New Zealand’s methane emissions from stock are already trending down. Unlike other greenhouse gas emissions, like C02," Andrew says.

Instead the Select Committee stuck with the 24% - 47% reduction target that was based on an international study which has no relevance to methane’s global warming effect and whose authors stated it should not be used by individual countries.

The only way to meet the Paris Agreement goal of restricting further increases in global temperatures is to reduce the production of carbon dioxide from the burning of fossil fuels.

"We can’t forget the Paris Agreement aims to reduce emissions without harming food production."

As it says in the agreement: "Increasing the ability to adapt to the adverse impacts of climate change and foster climate resilience and low greenhouse gas emissions development, in a manner that does not threaten food production".

"Given the government’s methane targets will force the replacement of sheep and cattle with pine trees, so unless sawdust is suddenly edible, then it seems we are also ignoring the Paris Agreement," Andrew says.

If the government had set targets based on what is actually required to achieve no additional warming, then this would have provided farmers with the ability to be rewarded for going past those targets and achieving ‘cooling effects’.

"We could have utilised this to our advantage in marketing our products as ‘warming neutral’.

"Our products are already world leading in their footprint and reducing production in New Zealand will only drive increased emissions offshore.

"The government has missed a golden opportunity to take its farmers along with them. We will keep working to achieve lower emissions, but the pressure of this unattainable goal will eventually weigh heavily on some farmers."