A missed opportunity for real climate leadership

1 November 2021


Federated Farmers believes the government could work much harder at getting other countries to embrace the latest climate science and to take a ‘split gas approach’ to emissions reduction.

"This is what New Zealand should be talking about at COP26 this week," Federated Farmers president Andrew Hoggard says.

Yesterday Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Climate Change minister James Shaw announced New Zealand’s ‘Nationally Determined Contribution’ to reduce greenhouse gas emissions will be updated to reduce net emissions by 50% below gross 2005 levels by 2030.

While it will be technically possible for New Zealand to work backwards and make this all-gas target consistent with the split gas approach taken domestically, Feds is disappointed the opportunity to show leadership on this issue globally has been squandered.

"This all-gases target misses an opportunity for New Zealand to show genuine leadership by promoting the settled science that while long-lived emissions need to reach net zero to halt warming, short lived emissions do not."

Feds believes this inaccurate and outdated way methane emissions from agriculture are currently being estimated means that despite biogenic methane only needing to reduce by 0.3% a year to be warming neutral, the metric we keep using incorrectly states the gas is responsible for around 80% of the sector’s warming.

"This is not just an issue for New Zealand farmers, but farmers across the globe.

"Agriculture is the primary source of biogenic methane emissions but short-lived biogenic methane is not the same as long-lived carbon dioxide, it may account for 42% of New Zealand’s emissions if you use the blunt CO2 equivalent (GWP100) formulae, but it doesn't account for anywhere near 42% of this country’s warming, and the issue is, at the end of the day, warming.

"We are still not accounting for biogenic methane correctly and if we don’t, it will lead to massive structural change in our land use, in the wellbeing of rural communities and our economy, all for little to no gain in global atmospheric warming," Andrew says.

If New Zealand and the rest of the world continue to treat biogenic methane as if it accumulates in the atmosphere in the same way as carbon dioxide, there is a real risk emissions budgets and targets will not reflect what is physically happening in the atmosphere.

In recent conversations with government Federated Farmers asked the government to showcase New Zealand’s leadership on biogenic methane reduction at COP26.

"The form of the NDC was one such opportunity to show leadership. While this opportunity has now been missed, we hope that leadership is shown in other areas, such as giving farmers the regulatory framework to use tools that reduce emissions while maintaining food production."

The government’s recently released draft Emissions Reduction Plan contains very few actual new policies to reach the old 2030 NDC, let alone this new target.

"We want to see New Zealand farmers empowered to innovate their way to climate neutrality. New Zealand farmers are not only being let down by targets that go beyond what is needed for biogenic methane to reach climate neutrality, but also by an inability to use tools, such as the feed inhibitor Bovaer, to reduce emissions," Andrew says.

"Mitigation tools are being given the regulatory green light internationally but in New Zealand we are constrained by red tape.

"We would be concerned if the government were to increase the ambition of our NDC simply to channel resources offshore into some other carbon-offsetting programme - when this investment could be made domestically."

New Zealand is the only country in the world with clear and explicit targets for emissions reductions from biogenic methane.

While these split emissions targets need to be followed up with split emissions budgets, politicians and officials should be promoting, and not downplaying, these targets on the global stage.

"We are also alone in having specific policy to manage and reduce agricultural emissions without introducing subsidies, that is world leading," Andrew says.

The KPMG Net Zero Readiness Index recently rated New Zealand as the world leader in agriculture emissions reduction programmes.

"Now we need our own government to step up, show real leadership, and get other countries to see how biogenic methane needs to be accounted for differently.

"We can show leadership to the world in other fields, like trade negotiation, in sports strategy and in human rights. Why can’t we do it for climate change?"


ENDS

For more information contact:   Andrew Hoggard, 027 230 7363
OR
Leigh Catley | GM Communications, Federated Farmers
Email: lcatley@fedfarm.org.nz, Mobile: +64 (0)27 241 4350