The Green Party continues its blinkered approach to the environment with its call to include agriculture in the Emissions Trading Scheme:
The call comes in the wake of a study, part funded by the New Zealand Government,1 showing that global warming pollution from agriculture must be cut significantly to keep global temperatures below a 2° rise, and that currently not nearly enough is being done to achieve this.
“National needs to stop making excuses and set a deadline to end the growing levels of climate-damaging pollution from agriculture,” said Green Party primary industries spokesperson Eugenie Sage.
“The National Government has repeatedly refused to push the agricultural sector to reduce climate damaging pollution, despite this being a requirement for the energy sector, transport providers and nearly every other New Zealander.
The government was the prime mover behind the establishment of the Global Research Alliance on Agricultural GHGs which is using international collaboration to find solutions. It’s also working with farmers who are paying for research into methods to reduce emissions without the financial and social costs that the Green’s solution would impose, not just on farmers but the wider economy.
“All New Zealanders, including farmers, want to preserve a safe and stable climate for future generations. That means facing reality, and committing to an end to pollution-intensive farming. . .
Facing reality means accepting that global problems require global solutions.
That means understanding that reducing food production here would increase emissions because production would increase in other countries with far less efficient farming methods than those employed by most New Zealand farmers.
It also means accepting good science which could show that genetic modification is one of the solutions.
AgResearch scientists have developed a genetically modified ryegrass that cuts greenhouse gas emissions by up to 30% but biotechnology experts warn regulations could delay its use.
Though it has several environmental benefits and could boost production it faces regulatory hurdles here because it has been genetically engineered.
The scientists have shown in the laboratory the ryegrass, called High Metabolisable Energy (HME), can reduce methane emissions from animals by 15% to 30% while modelling suggests a reduction in nitrous oxide of up to 20%.
It has also shown resilience to dry weather and can increase milk production by up to 12%.
Environmentalists have berated agriculture for not reducing greenhouse gas emissions but if laboratory results are replicated in the field, HME could reignite the GM debate.
“UN research shows New Zealand farmers can cut climate damaging pollution with current technology, by as much as 17 percent. The Government shouldn’t be pinning all its hopes on a silver bullet solution to agricultural pollution.
“Leading dairy farmers are showing they can increase profit and cut pollution by optimising stocking rates and by shifting production to high-value, low-impact organic dairy farming. We need all farmers to follow suit,” said Ms Sage.
Of course reducing stock would reduce emissions here but it would at best do nothing to reduce world-wide emissions and would almost certainly lead to an increase as less efficient producers elsewhere increased their production.
The Green solution would reduce food production and lead to increases in both the price of food, which would impact hardest on the poor, and emissions.
Farmers are doing all they can to reduce emissions globally rather than the smoke and mirrors approach of cuts here replaced by increases there the Green Party is promoting.