Federated Farmers is very concerned the Climate Change Commission’s draft advice to the government on emissions budgets puts a much bigger ask on methane-emitters – largely farmers – to make up for a lack of action on those sectors emitting carbon dioxide.
This is due to the terms of reference given to the Commission by the Climate Change Minister, who disappointingly did not task the Commission with finding out ‘What level of reduction in biogenic methane is zero carbon equivalent?’
“A big worry for us is that if targets to reduce long-lived gases – such as galloping carbon dioxide emissions from transport – are not achieved, farmers will then be asked to do even more,” Feds President Andrew Hoggard says.
This is not only disproportionately harmful for farmers, the agriculture sector and the New Zealand economy, but also the atmosphere. Delaying reductions in long-lived emissions but reducing short-lived emissions risks adding to long-term warming and achieves emissions reduction targets in name only.
In a submission sent to the Commission by the weekend deadline, Federated Farmers said it appreciated the Commission’s efforts to correct media reports that the draft advice recommended a 15% reduction in NZ’s dairy, sheep and beef animal numbers. But any assumption that the tremendous productivity improvements that have occurred on New Zealand farms since 1990 can continue at a linear rate is misplaced.
“As farmers approach fixed biological limits, a steep diminishing productivity return on investment may result, even for the most cutting edge farmers,” Andrew said.
“Regarding the 8-10% reduction in stock numbers expected as a result of current policies by 2030, Feds request that the Commission provide a detailed breakdown as to the specific policies assumed to reduce stock numbers, and in which regions the reductions in stock numbers are assumed to occur.”
Farmers certainly support the Commission’s recommendations for better rural internet connectivity.
The Federated Farmers Rural Connectivity Survey 2020 report reveals the poor state of rural telecommunications, specifically around 2/3 of farmers across the country enduring download speeds that would struggle to support most modern-day online services let alone farm productivity improvements like precision agriculture
“We also support the Commission’s recommendation that the New Zealand Government revisit the effective ban on genetic engineering (GE). Reversing this ban is an important step towards enabling emission reducing technologies for the agriculture sector. As GE matures as a technology, the opportunity cost of New Zealand’s current prohibitive policy framework will increase, and Kiwi farmers risk being left behind.
“The Federation favours an approach that empowers both consumers and producers to make their own informed decisions,” Andrew said.
Feds has also again emphasised farmers deep concern about planting the wrong trees in the wrong place solely for so-called ‘carbon farming’.
“Much of this blanket afforestation is driven by the allure of valuable emission units from forestry, while planting restrictions under the National Environmental Standard for Plantation Forestry drives it away from marginal land towards productive farms.
“This afforestation is already having an impact on many rural communities along the east coast of the North Island, with the recent spike in forestry resulting in less local economic activity. Our members have already seen jobs lost and rural schools close and there is a fear large amounts of productive land will be lost long term for a short-term climate accounting gain, with no beneficial behaviour change resulting, and rural communities being blanketed in increasingly fire-prone pine trees,” Andrew said.
While pleased that the Commission’s report makes it clear that all sectors of our society – not just farming – have a part to play in reducing greenhouse gases, Feds believes the recommended path ahead squanders an opportunity for New Zealand to champion a better, scientifically-sound metric for accounting for the warming impact of short-lived (mainly methane) and long-lived (mainly carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide) gases.
“The advice and recommendations in the draft report show acute awareness of perceived international expectations yet go to great lengths not to demonstrate genuine global leadership regardless of there being strong scientific reasons for doing so.
“The Government listened to the science and adopted a split gas approach for domestic targets. While the targets set for methane are unscientifically harsh, setting a separate target took genuine international leadership. We are disappointed there remains no split gas emissions budgets and disappointed that the Commission has not recommended that New Zealand adopt a split gas Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC).”
The unusual nature of New Zealand’s emissions profile has resulted in New Zealand climate policy having a greater focus on agricultural emissions than most developed nations. This is an opportunity for New Zealand to demonstrate global climate leadership and we are disappointed that, despite making many compelling arguments for doing so, the draft report does not recommend that the New Zealand government adopt the most fit-for-purpose GHG metrics or split-gas targets, Andrew said.
“Given the broad base of evidence that highlights the pragmatic nature of not lumping together long and short-lived emissions and given the flexibility the Paris Agreement allows for when setting NDCs, we are disappointed that the Commission has failed to use this opportunity to show genuine international climate leadership and have not recommended that the NDC take the same split-gas approach used in current domestic targets.”
- The full Federated Farmers submission can be read here