Farmers will end up paying their share of emissions, says climate change minister
The government defends against charging the agricultural sector for a new agri-tech centre, saying the technology has yet to be rolled out to farms.
Ministers announced the $2.9 billion investment in emissions reductions on Monday, calling it the most significant event in the country’s history of climate action.
However, environmentalists have criticized the lack of focus on the agricultural sector – the country’s biggest emitter.
Nearly $340 million has also been set aside for a new agro-technology center to study new tools to reduce emissions on farms.
Farmers, however, are exempt from the emissions trading system until 2025 and have therefore not contributed a penny to the research fund.
Climate Change Minister James Shaw said the challenge is that some of the technology has not yet been rolled out to farms. Some of the center’s initiatives will involve technology and science while others will help farmers change their business models.
The government pledged in its first term to spend five years building a system that would reduce greenhouse gases on farms, although it argued at the time for a shorter deadline .
Shaw added that the emissions trading system was not well designed for agricultural businesses.
Ralph Sims, Emeritus Professor of Sustainable Energy and Climate Mitigation at Massey University, predicted that emissions will continue to rise for some time despite government initiatives.
Shaw disagreed, saying the plan’s purpose was for gross emissions to start falling during the first emissions budget period that would run through 2025 and then accelerate from 2026.
“So the cuts would become larger in each of the three emissions budgets. But one of the disputes that remains is how we count emissions, so it’s possible that’s what Ralph is talking about.”
Former Green MP Catherine Delahunty said the government was too afraid of losing next year’s election to bring about real change in the agricultural sector.
Shaw replied that any government had to be aware of the impending elections and had to be aware of the social license under which it operated.
“Things have changed very, very quickly… the government is hungry to act faster on many of these commitments than we would have done even 12 months ago.”
Professor Sims said he would ‘put money into New Zealand’s gross emissions which will continue to rise for a few more years’.
He said he and Minister Shaw were correct in their assertions “but over a different time frame”.
The goal over the next three years is to reduce the country’s emissions from around 80 million tonnes per year to an average of 72 million tonnes per year.
“But it’s still not an obvious way to do it.”
The Sims said morning report that the government’s plan had many positive aspects, but that it would take a long time to have an impact.
Assistance to install solar panels on the roofs of new houses and electric charging stations for vehicles could have been included.
Missed opportunities include failure to introduce bans on new coal exploration, new gas connections or imports of new petrol or diesel vehicles within a set time frame.
Cabinet should make quick decisions, he said.
Some of the initiatives that have been included have been discussed for years, so it was disappointing that “now it is immediate action that is missing”.
Global Farmers Initiative
Dairy NZ chief executive Dr Tim Mackle said farmers are looking to pay for their emissions through the plan they are working on for their sector.
It is due to be presented to the government early next month.
“It’s our commitment to reducing emissions – measuring, pricing and managing emissions.”
Consultation within the agricultural sector suggested that farmers agreed that they should be responsible for emissions produced on farms.
“We have before us a world-first opportunity to put in place our own farm emissions plan and a plan that I think will help everyone.”
One of the key messages to farmers is that international customers watch how food is produced. They want to see evidence of zero emissions and the sector needs to respond, which it is already doing, Mackle said.
The farmers were already producing low-carbon food but want to improve.
“That’s why this R&D announcement is so important to us as it allows us to advance and accelerate the development of technologies and tools to specifically reduce methane and nitrous oxide in a livestock context. New Zealand pastoral, so that’s a good thing.”
Dairy produces about half of the country’s methane emissions, Mackle said, and that had to be weighed against export earnings estimated at $21 billion by the end of next month. This represented about a third of the country’s current export earnings.
Mackle is convinced that results can be achieved without reducing the number of cows.
Methane has a warming impact, but it’s not as big as CO2 – 60% of methane is gone after about 12 years, while CO2 will stay in the atmosphere for about 1,000 years, he said. he declares.
Farmer opposed to emissions tax
Taranaki farmer Ted Gane said the agri-tech center announcement was “a surprise” and “seems OK”.
He opposes farmers being charged for their farming broadcasts, saying morning report that the methane gas emitted by cows is a short-lived gas.
“There is a whole skewed system that has portrayed us as laggards in the system and somehow we are the big polluters of the planets and blah blah blah that is actually refuted by a lot of scientific information but that is never reported by the mainstream media as such.We are always being reported as the bad guys.
Asked how farmers are going to respond to foreign market demands for zero-emission products, he said farmers have been taking environmental initiatives for 20 to 30 years.
As the industry works on its own plan to charge farmers for their emissions and the National Party agrees to back it, Gane said he remains opposed to any new form of taxes.