Is there carbon in the fleece?


Is there carbon in wool and if so does it constitute a carbon store which could offset farm emissions?

Federated farmers is keeping a close eye on the Australian-led Wool Carbon Alliance which may provide answers to those questions.

The Australians may be clutching at wool on the issue of wool carbon but we need to keep a watching brief on what the Australians are up to,” says Bruce Wills, Federated Farmers Meat & Fibre chairperson.

“The Australians claim that carbon makes up to half of wool’s composition and if true, it would represent a carbon store of 64,000 tonnes walking around New Zealand’s farms right now.

This sounds too good to be true. Even if it isn’t, Wills said the complexity and expense needed to verify the idea provides another reason to seek the exemption of emissions from the production of food and fibre at Copenhagen.

Regardless of whether or not the carbon in wool could be counted, Wills sees “green” opportunities in the fibre.

“Yet aside from generating non-compliant Kyoto carbon, it’s time we get out and shout about what is a 100 percent natural and renewable resource. . .

“If you’re truly clean and green, you should be insulating your home with wool products.  It takes significantly less energy to produce wool products than artificial fibres, meaning CO2 and other emissions are very low.  Best of all, it won’t cut you like glass fibres will.

“In Europe, they’ve shown an average household can cut its annual CO2 emissions by up to 300 kg and its energy bill by 5-10 percent if heating is dialled down by just 1° Celsius.  Wool can play its part.

“What we have here is eco-insulation and it’s time we trumpet it at home and overseas.  It’s time to talk up the environmental and sustainable properties inherent in New Zealand’s natural fibres.

“But wool is much more than that – you can wear it, walk in it, sleep in it and who knows what else you can do with it.  It’s time to unleash wool and a lot of that rests with us farmers,” Mr Wills urged.

Merino, by itself or with possum fur, has found a lucrative niche in clothing but no-one has yet found a similar way to increase the demand for the fibre from breeds with courser wool.

Wool insulation from companies like Terra Lana has a good reputation but in spite of its environmental credentials it’s not nearly as well known as its synthetic competitors.

The environmental credentials of wool are well established. Whether or not wool provides a carbon sink, the growing demand for “green” products provides an opportunity to sell the virtues of wool carpet and insulation and farmers need to lead by example.

ETS costs too high for agriculture


The costs from the proposed emissions trading scheme   will erode any improvement in red meat schedules and dairy payout.

This and other adverse impacts have prompted industry groups to call for more time to voice their concerns about the ETS amid widespread fears it will crush competitiveness for no environmental benefit.

There is absolutely no point in imposing costs on primary industry, or any other sector, if there is not going to be a measurable environmental benefit.

As the first country to include agriculture in such a scheme, the sector says its concerns have not been taken into account, prompting a pan-industry letter sent to Parliament calling for another chance to make submissions.The latest independent analysis of the scheme in its current form shows sheep, beef and deer farmers will be ‘hit hard’ by the ETS – much more so than their dairy counterparts.
Detailing a range of indicative costs for 2030 – the year when agriculture will pay full carbon emissions expenses – National Bank rural economist Kevin Wilson shows the cost of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions per kilogram of product sold would be 38c for meat producers compared with 21c for dairy.
Given the dairy payout is historically higher per kilogram of milksolids than a kilogram of meat, it means sheep, beef and deer farmers would pay a higher proportion of income into offsetting emissions than dairy farmers.

The cost of emissions per hectare would equate to $185 for dairy and $84 for sheep and beef. Dairy also has a higher GHG cost per stock unit at $74, compared with $8.40 for sheep and beef.

Wilson told Rural News many variables will determine the ultimate costs, but the fundamental question is why New Zealand has agriculture in its ETS plans when no other countries do.
There is no satisfactory answer to this question, especially when New Zealand’s extensive grazing systems put us among the most productive producers of protein with the lowest carbon emissions in the world. 

He says 2018 – when agriculture would enter the scheme – is actually a lot closer that it seems given the changes that would need to be implemented: ‘Now is the time to start preparing potential management options.’Meat & Wool NZ chairman Mike Petersen is not surprised to hear the ETS costs to dairy farmers are lower because they generally sell more product and at a higher price.
But his major and immediate reason in pushing for change to the scheme is that New Zealand is the only country in the world to put agriculture in an ETS. ‘It’s a real concern to us,’ he says.
‘That’s why we are arguing there needs to be some recognition of the competitive factors that New Zealand agriculture will face as a result of being the only country in the world to do so.’

MWNZ was one of 14 industry groups calling for the chance to provide further submissions to the Climate Change Bill recently amended by the Finance and Expenditure Select Committee.

Petersen is concerned the ETS goes beyond meeting the nation’s international obligations, and warns carbon neutrality is not a sustainable long-term goal for New Zealand’s sheep and beef industry.

Another worry is ‘trade-offs’ being made in Parliament to pass the bill before the election, says Petersen.

Keeping Stock wonders if Helen Clark’s support of Winston Peters this week is because she needs his support fot the bill.

Wilson’s calculations are based on a conservative carbon cost of $25/tonne, plus stocking rates of 2.5 cows/ha for dairy and 10 stock units/ha for sheep and beef. It takes fertiliser application of 500kg/ha for dairy and 50kg/ha for sheep/beef, production of 875kg of milksolids/ha and 220kg of meat and fibre/ha, along with 7.4t of CO2 equivalent per square hectare emitted for dairy and 3.4/ha for sheep and beef.
No-one knows what the cost will be, it is unlikely to be lower but it could be much higher.


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