An agricultural leader says his sector has “some trepidation” that taking steps to protect the environment may have an unnecessary impact on the farming community.
Federated Farmers dairy sector chair Andrew Hoggard is keeping a close eye on the Zero Carbon Bill, with public consultations opening on Thursday.
The proposed legislation would put climate change targets into law, in line with the goal of the country becoming carbon-neutral by 2050.
“The key thing most farmers want to see with the Zero Carbon Bill is that it recognises the difference between methane and carbon dioxide,” Mr Hoggard told The AM Show.
“Methane is 75 percent of the gases that come from agriculture but it is a short-lived gas, unlike carbon dioxide – so it basically recycles.”
Mr Hoggard says the two are often confused, but if methane emissions remain “static”, have no greater impact. He says dropping methane levels by “4 or 5 percent” would bring them back to 1990 levels.
He added it “wouldn’t make any sense” if the Government considers cutting back on farming as a solution.
“New Zealand feeds about 40 million people in the world, so if we reduce our agricultural production by 20 percent to supposedly reduce emissions by 20 percent, there is effectively 8 million people that will be looking for food elsewhere and it probably won’t be done as well as what it is in New Zealand.” . .
There is a danger with this Bill that politicians will act locally without thinking globally.
The ban on oil exploration here is an example of that. It is expected to increase global emissions by replacing New Zealand gas with coal gas from China.
There is a similar danger with the Carbon Zero Bill.
Any policies which increase the cost of food production and reduce the amount produced in New Zealand will provide the opportunity for increased production in other countries with much less efficient and environmentally sustainable farming systems.
Derek Daniell, one of this country’s leading farmers, sheep breeders and thinkers, says NZ agriculture makes a convenient scapegoat.
New Zealand’s environmental profile has been shafted by the one-sided, false accounting analysis of the Kyoto Accord.
Why was New Zealand the only country to have agriculture emissions specifically included in Kyoto? Because the blame could be shifted to methane emissions from ruminants, even though the methane percentage in the atmosphere has been constant over the past 25 years. And ruminants have been around for 90 million years. Their methane emissions had a balance in the earth’s atmosphere long before the world became overstocked with humans, who are using up billions of years of stored energy as oil, coal and gas in a short binge.
No credit is given for the buildup of top soil and organic matter under our pastoral farming system, under the “single entry” accounting approach. This is a much more virtuous farming system than monoculture cropping, using herbicides and pesticides to kill competing plants and animals, and continually depleting the organic matter in the soil. How long is monoculture cropping around the world going to be sustainable?
Tourism is touted as a great industry for New Zealand, with recent growth to 3.7 million visitors. But no one talks about the 2.9 million Kiwis travelling OUT of the country, and spending more than $10 billion in the process. This is another example of “single entry accounting”. And no one talks about the continual increase in GHG caused by this two way travel.
The energy industry is another sector under attack from the current government, and environmental lobby groups. The local oil, gas and coal industry supplies the equivalent of 78 percent of domestic requirements, but reducing. We will become more and more dependent on an oil tanker sailing into the Whangarei refinery every six days. This is another example of “single entry” accounting. If the government restricts this sector, it will simply reduce the living standards of New Zealanders, because we will import more energy. And be less self sufficient. . .
Derek’s column is worth reading in full which you can do if you click on the link above.