He Waka Eke Noa didn’t have universal farmer support.
The government’s butchering of it is uniting farmers against it and threatens the sector consensus:
Today’s farm emissions announcement threatens the sector consensus by failing to recognise New Zealand farmers are already the most carbon efficient in the world, National’s Agriculture spokesperson Barbara Kuriger says.
“National is committed to emissions targets, including reaching carbon Net Zero by 2050, the Paris Climate Agreement and reductions in agricultural emissions.
“National recognises New Zealand farmers’ significant contribution to the economy. Agriculture earns half this country’s export revenue.
“We are concerned that today’s announcement puts consensus at risk. The Government’s own figures indicate:
- Sheep and beef farming could reduce by 20 per cent and dairy by 5 per cent by 2030
- Two-thirds of the reduction in emissions in New Zealand will be undone by higher emissions overseas as jobs and production shift offshore
- The plan does not allow farmers to earn extra income from some forms of on-farm planting and carbon capture.
“Worryingly, the large falls in sheep production in New Zealand could lead to higher global emissions as more sheep production moves overseas to less-efficient farms.
“Broad industry support is crucial for any enduring solution to agricultural emissions.
“This plan could have significant implications for our rural towns and communities. The Government has put at risk the consensus built by He Waka Eke Noa Partnership over three years.
“National supports efforts to reduce emissions and we encourage the Government to work with the sector to find an enduring solution.”
In an email to members National leader Christopher Luxon points out the flaws in Labour’s proposal:
. . .I’m very concerned by the massive impacts these proposals could have on our rural towns and communities – which could see sheep and beef farming reduce by one fifth in just five years.
National backs our farmers. Our rural communities are the backbone of our country and agriculture is our biggest export earner. New Zealand’s prosperity is built on the hard work of farmers and growers up and down the country. It’s their work and their businesses that support other rural businesses and suppliers and create employment and jobs in provincial towns. We cannot let Labour and the Greens put that at risk.
I want you to know where National stands.
New Zealand needs to cut its carbon emissions. National supports New Zealand’s emissions targets, including reaching carbon net zero by 2050. And that means reducing agriculture emissions over time.
We backed the sector-led process as a way to introduce emission pricing for agriculture alongside other measures to reduce on-farm emissions and support the uptake of new technology.
We believe consensus with farmers is vital. But the Government has today put that at risk with a different proposal which could gut our rural communities while seeing emissions increase overseas as food production and jobs move off-shore.
Indeed, the Government’s own figures suggest its proposed scaling back of our sheep industry will actually lead to overall higher global emissions. That’s because Kiwi farmers are among the most carbon efficient in the world so cutting back food production here just to see demand being met by less-efficient farmers overseas is simply counterproductive. National would ensure Kiwi farmers enjoy regulatory settings that make it easy to develop and adopt new technology to reduce emissions – not just send primary production, jobs and emissions offshore.
National would also allow farmers to earn credit for all forms of on-farm carbon capture. It’s just not right for Labour and the Greens to add extra costs to farmers without allowing on-farm planting and carbon capture to offset new emissions costs they may face.
The Government needs to get alongside rural communities and find an enduring solution that works for everyone – not dictate changes from Wellington.
National trusts farmers to be the best environmental stewards of their own land. I know farmers will use technology, ingenuity and local knowledge to figure out local solutions that work to reduce emissions sensibly.
Any relief that farming won’t be forced into the ETS will be overwhelmed by genuine criticism about what the government has taken out of the industry’s proposal:
The government has accepted most of the proposals put forward by the He Waka Eke Noa partnership to price agricultural emissions, but industry groups are concerned some of the recommendations have been excluded.
The farm-level, split gas approach has made the cut, but modifications have been proposed on how sequestration is calculated.
“We need to further analyse these changes carefully, but one area of immediate concern is the proposed changes to sequestration, which is of real importance to sheep and beef farmers,” Beef + Lamb NZ chair Andrew Morrison said.
“We know we have a role to play in addressing climate change and our farmers are among the first to feel the effects of it.
“However, if farmers are to face a price for their agricultural emissions from 2025, it is vital they get proper recognition for the genuine sequestration happening on their farms.”
Meat Industry Association chair Nathan Guy said although the government proposal is better than agriculture entering the emissions trading scheme (ETS), there is room for further improvement.
“Sheep and beef farmers and the meat processing and exporting sector collectively generate $12 billion in income per year for the country and account for more than 92,000 jobs, almost 5% of New Zealand’s full-time workforce. It’s critical we have the right policy settings so our sector can continue to deliver for our farmers, our processors and exporters, rural communities and the country.”. .
Needing further improvement is an understatement.
He Waka Eke Noa (HWEN) programme director Kelly Forster said its partners are pleased the government has listened to the partnership on the need for a farm-level system rather than including agricultural emissions in the New Zealand Emissions Trading Scheme (NZETS).
“A farm-level system as recommended by He Waka Eke Noa will enable each farmer and grower to clearly see the direct impact of their on-farm decisions and would give them incentives for using new technologies and practices as they become available. Our modelling shows it will be more effective in achieving emissions reductions than including agriculture in the NZETS at the processor level.
“He Waka Eke Noa’s recommendations were, however, designed as a carefully balanced package that was as equitable as possible across all parts of the primary sector.
“The government has proposed alternative approaches in some areas, such as how sequestration is recognised, which may fundamentally alter the balance and could have significant implications for sheep, beef and deer farmers. . .
That’s a diplomatic way of saying it will be disastrous, and Federated Farmers points out the costs won’t just be felt on farm and by farmers:
The greenhouse gas reduction plan released by the government this morning will rip the guts out of small town New Zealand, putting trees where farms used to be.
The plan aims to reduce sheep and beef farming in New Zealand by 20% and dairy farming by 5% to achieve the unscientific pulled-out-of-a-hat national GHG targets.
This is the equivalent of the entire wine industry and half of seafood being wiped out.
The government’s rehashed plan to reduce on-farm greenhouse gas emissions throws out the two and a half years of work the industry did to come up with a solution, supposedly all that time in a ‘partnership’ with government to achieve a workable solution which would not reduce food production.
“This is not what we’ve got this morning. What happened to the ‘historic partnership’?
“Federated Farmers is deeply unimpressed with the government’s take on the He Waka Eke Noa proposal and is concerned for our members’ futures,” Federated Farmers National president and climate change spokesperson Andrew Hoggard says.
“We didn’t sign up for this. It’s gut-wrenching to think we now have this proposal from government which rips the heart out of the work we did. Out of the families who farm this land.
“Our plan was to keep farmers farming. Now they’ll be selling up so fast you won’t even hear the dogs barking on the back of the ute as they drive off.
“Some overseas buyer can plant trees and take the carbon cash.”
The scariest impact from the government’s rehash of the He Waka Eke Noa proposal was that it’s own modelling showed the impact on sheep and beef farming would be as high as 20%.
It also shows that world agricultural emissions would increase, not decrease, under this plan.
“The government’s plan means the small towns, like Wairoa, Pahiatua, Taumaranui – pretty much the whole of the East Coast and central North Island and a good chunk of the top of the South – will be surrounded by pine trees quicker than you can say ‘ETS application’.”
So all the small town cafes, car yards, schools, pubs, rugby clubs, hairdressers and supermarkets can say goodbye to the small town business supported by the agriculture around them.
Deer Industry New Zealand (DINZ) is concerned that the plan will impose costs on farmers who have no cost-effective way to reduce emissions:
. . . The farm-level pricing system the government has announced is in line with the He Waka Eke Noa proposal. However, DINZ remains deeply concerned about the impact of prices on farmers who have no cost effective way to reduce their emissions of methane and nitrous oxide, says Deer Industry NZ chair Mandy Bell. . .
There is as yet no guidance for the price of methane; there is a recommendation that nitrous oxide would be linked to the ETS NZU, but with a discount.
The government has also released economic modelling to demonstrate the impact on a range of farm types. As was previously communicated to government, the largest impact falls upon the most extensive farming systems. The government has acknowledged that the pricing system has different impacts and is seeking sectors’ views on levy relief and transition mechanisms for farming businesses who are most exposed.
Mandy Bell says “DINZ will be reinforcing to policy makers what they have already recognised – that the farm price needs to allow businesses to remain economically viable until practical tools to reduce methane and nitrous oxide emissions from pastoral farming are available.
“We believe it is essential that government and sector invest in developing and bringing new technologies to NZ farmers to help them reduce their gross emissions as soon as possible. If our farmers have practical technology they can use, they will use it. Our farmers are rapid adopters and are innovative.”
There is not yet practical technology for our innovative farmers to rapidly adopt.
We are already the most carbon efficient farmers in the world and are paying for research to find ways to become better.
But until that research gets practical and cost-effective results, the only way farmers can reduce emissions is to reduce stock numbers.
That won’t only make some farms uneconomic it will push up the price of food, reduce export income and have the perverse outcome of increasing global emissions as other far less efficient farmers increase their production to take advantage of the gap in the market left by less New Zealand produce.
It doesn’t help that there’s debate over the impact of methane:
There are suggestions we may have been incorrectly measuring methane emissions and the effect they have on overall warming.
Well known climate scientists Adrian Macey and Dave Frame have been looking at our climate change policy in relation to the rest of the world.
What they’ve found is that by using a more accurate metric to replicate what methane does to warming, we see that effects have been overstated by more than three or four times the actual damage.
When it came to introducing the new more accurate metric to climate change advisers within the Government they were either passive or dismissive of it.
Overall, they find the Climate Change Commission and the Ministry for the Environment simply got it wrong.
Methane is responsible for nearly half New Zealand’s emissions, but it’s impact on warming is much less.
The government is putting politics before science, trying to earn praise on the international stage at an enormous domestic cost in economic and social terms with no environmental gains.
It is in effect another tax that will lead to less food produced in contravention of the Paris Accord which states climate change mitigation should not come at the expense of food production.
It will have the perverse outcome of discouraging planting.
This is another example of the government putting the green cart in front of the science and technology horses at a very high economic and social domestically and doing no good for the global environment in the process.