By Cam Henderson
OPINION: The agriculture sector is largely united in disagreeing with the government’s emissions reductions targets so why are agricultural leaders continuing to support He Waka Eke Noa? It helps to understand what HWEN can do and more importantly, what it cannot do.
Getting to grips with this complicated issue is certainly no holiday, but perhaps it offers a useful analogy….It’s summer so let’s start by imagining planning a holiday.
There are two big questions in planning a holiday – where do we go, and how do we get there. Answering ‘where do we go?’ is the exciting part. There are many destinations on offer and many factors to consider – weather, type of holiday, activities available etc. In comparison choosing the vehicle to get you there is still important but rather mundane. Do you take a car, a bus, plane or train. Each has their pros and cons.
Agriculture’s emissions reduction journey has the same two questions – Where do we go (the targets) and how do we get there (mechanisms to manage reductions). The targets receive most of the attention. Like our holiday there are many factors to consider in deciding on an emissions destination – the evolving science, economics, technology and international goals.
He Waka Eke Noa has nothing to do with deciding the destination targets. It is not debating the evolving science, the economics of various targets, investigating technologies or commenting on international goals. It is not seeking agreement on targets.
HWEN is a vehicle to get us to whatever targets are currently in legislation. I say ‘a’ vehicle because there are many vehicles helping work towards emissions targets including customer expectation, international market economics and other environmental regulation.
Back in 2019 the Government decided to use the ETS as a dedicated vehicle to drive emission reductions. Think of the ETS as a bulldozer, a big, rigid and weighty vehicle that would do the job but likely cause more damage than good to the ag sector. So agri leaders came together and said we would like to help choose a more appropriate vehicle for our journey. The government agreed but said that it had to be a pricing mechanism.
In other words, we could not use a non-pricing option like we do for managing water quality. That’s akin to saying you can choose your vehicle but it must travel on the road. So options like a plane that might have got us there faster, more efficiently and with less fuss were off the table.
This is the task of the HWEN partnership. Designing the best road worthy vehicle that could get us to whatever emissions destination was in the GPS. If we cannot do so, we will be forced back into the bulldozer.
So herin lies the limits of what HWEN can do and what it cannot do. HWEN has no ability to change the destination, no ability to look into other vehicles other than those that travel on a specific road (pricing) and no ability to say ‘let’s call the holiday off’. We could discuss all those things but we could equally discuss the cost of housing, or the weather – we have no ability to change any of it inside the HWEN agreement.
That’s not to say we won’t discuss those items outside of HWEN, we do, but that is a fight for another day.
The options HWEN is presenting in engagement are like two cars. The processor hybrid option is simple, a bit rough round the edges and not entirely fit for purpose but cheap. The farm level option is more finely tuned, a better long-term option but pricey. Neither is perfect but both are better for this journey than a bulldozer.
The HWEN parnership is not always a happy family and this journey is no holiday but we have to put that aside to choose the best vehicle to get us there. Happy car shopping.
- Cam is a former President of Federated Farmers North Canterbury and is the Feds representative on the He Waka Eke Noa/Primary Sector Climate Action Partnership steering group.