No free ride for farming

July 5, 2012

Federated Farmers has put the record straight about the”free ride”   which the opposition think farming is getting through delaying the admission of agriculture into the Emissions Trading Scheme and the way it is being reported:

Some media are reporting the latest revision to the ETS as ‘the Government excluding farmers from the Emissions Trading Scheme until 2015’.  This is factually incorrect.  

It is vital for accuracy to refer to the 2015 delay as applying to biological emissions only (methane and Nitrous Oxide from livestock and soils).

All New Zealand farms and orchards have been in the ETS since 1 July 2010.

We wish to counter a belief among some media that farmers do not pay the ETS on farm inputs or that farmers somehow receive a rebate.  Both these assumptions are incorrect.

Like all New Zealand businesses, farms pay the ETS on fuel and electricity they directly consume.  They also pay it indirectly through the supply chain on things as diverse as processing costs, animal remedies, wire netting, fencing, feed and fertiliser. Indirectly, it also affects the cost of professional services farmers consume too. 

There are few exemptions to the ETS and apply mostly to international air travel and international bunker fuels to and from New Zealand.

The cost of the ETS on dairy, horticulture, sheep, beef and deer: The cost impact of the ETS on dairy, horticulture, sheep, beef and deer farmers is conservatively estimated to be a minimum of $106 million per annum:  Fonterra Cooperative Group estimates its individual dairy farmer suppliers directly pay $3,700 a year in carbon costs for fuel, energy and their share of the carbon costs being paid by Fonterra for processing emissions (approximately $38.8 million per annum).   Beef+Lamb NZ, Meat Industry Association & Deer Industry New Zealand calculated the individual cost on sheep, beef and deer farms of the ETS, to be $2,000 per annum (approximately $27.8 million per annum)  HortNZ, in its 2011 submission, highlighted smaller greenhouse glass operators facing additional ETS related costs of $30,000 per annum.  In 2008, it estimatedthe ETS would add industry costs in excess of $40 million.

These compare to typical households paying additional ETS related costs of around $133 per annum.  It should be noted that many farms and orchards are households too.

Farmers are paying for research which is likely to lead to practical ways to reduce biological emissions.

But in the meantime there is no point imposing extra costs on food production with absolutely no benefit for the environment.


Agriculture excluded from Australian carbon tax

July 12, 2011

Australia’s decision to exempt agriculture from its carbon tax has political implications for farmers here.

National has consistently said the Emissions Trading Scheme won’t be imposed on agriculture until our competitors face a similar regime.

Labour’s policy is to force agriculture into the ETS in 2013.

National  understands there’s no environmental gain to imposing an ETS on farming until there are scientifically proven methods farmers can use to reduce emissions. It also understands the economy would suffer if our competitors didn’t face similar costs.

Labour just wants to tax farmers more – the impact on the environment and economy are irrelevant to them.

The difference is clear and every farmer should take that into account when voting.


Labour does favour for National and farmers

May 24, 2011

Labour’s promise to force farmers into the Emissions Trading Scheme in 2013 has done both the National Party and farmers a favour.

It’s good for National because it’s further proof that Labour has declared open season on farmers. That will make it much easier to get support for the blue team not just from farmers but also from those who work for, service and supply them and anyone else who understands the importance of the primary sector in this country.

Just how damaging the policy would be is spelt out by Beef + Lamb NZ:

Including livestock emissions in the ETS, in isolation from every other country in the world would be economic suicide for New Zealand and could spell the end of the sheep and beef sector in this country, Beef + Lamb New Zealand is warning the Labour Party.

Responding to Labour’s election year announcement that it would bring agriculture into the emissions trading scheme in 2013 and use the money to fund research and development tax credits, B+LNZ Chairman, Mike Petersen said the policy would penalise an $8 billion sector that is heavily supporting New Zealand’s export led recovery.

“At a time when a strong export sector is even more vital to New Zealand’s economy, we have Labour harking back to old ideas and their previously held view that farming is a sunset industry.

“What is most insulting is the proposal to use the emissions tax to fund R&D credits when the pastoral sector is already contributing significantly to climate change research and in fact is the only sector which has set up its own consortium (Pastoral Greenhouse Gas Consortium) to do so.

“What Labour seems to be proposing is to use the pastoral sector’s money to fund research for other industries that have not invested in climate change science.

“If that isn’t irksome enough for sheep and beef farmers, Labour seems to have completely forgotten that the sheep and beef sector has reduced its GHG emission levels significantly below Kyoto Protocol requirements and has so far produced carbon credits worth over $800 million dollars which have been pocketed by the Government.”

Bringing in livestock emissions would impose unsustainable additional costs on sheep and beef farmers, already under assault from massive farm input price inflation that has reached a staggering 41% over the previous 10 years, Petersen said.

“And let’s be clear, farmers are already in the ETS – they pay it on fuel and energy just like every other New Zealander. They are also investing in mitigation technologies but until there are viable tools for sheep and beef farmers to use to mitigate emissions on farm, it’s crazy to penalise them when no other country in the world is putting on-farm emissions into an ETS,” Petersen said.

Sheep and beef farmers through B+LNZ are funding the Pastoral Greenhouse Gas Research Consortium and with other sector organisations have invested $37 million since 2002. The Consortium is developing solutions for methane and nitrous oxide mitigation.

“Labour’s policy is effectively imposing cost on the sheep and beef sector which will make us uncompetitive in global markets. B+LNZ estimates of the cost to sheep and beef farmers under the Labour legislation was over $40,000 per farm at a carbon cost of $25.00 per tonne.

“In turn, this will ruin an iconic export industry, destroy our vibrant rural communities and, most ironically, lead to increases in global emissions when carbon efficient livestock production in New Zealand is replaced by comparably inefficient farming in other countries,” Petersen said.

If Labour’s policy is so bad, why is it good for farmers? 

Because it’s reinforced the government’s position that animal emissions won’t be taxed under the ETS unless other countries do it too  and there’s almost no chance of that happening in the next couple of years, if at all.

New Zealand’s agricultural sector won’t face the cost of the emissions trading scheme in 2015 unless other countries come to the party, Prime Minister John Key says.

The Prime Minister told reporters at his weekly post-Cabinet press conference New Zealand can’t “throw our biggest export earner to the wolves” by bringing agriculture under the ETS without other countries doing their part.

The government will only include agricultural emissions if farmers have a“reasonable chance” of competing internationally.

The sector was given a holiday from inclusion until 2015, though that’s only if a review, due in July, recommends requiring agricultural emissions be covered by the scheme.

“The test is whether other countries join them,” Key said.“We don’t live in some magical little world, where New Zealand can impose whatever costs it wants and say that that has no impact on our ability of our exporters to compete.

“We have the only unsubsidised agricultural sector in the world, and you don’t see our farmers moaning about that, and nor do you see any political will to change that.”

Labour isn’t suggesting bringing livestock into the ETS to reduce emissions. Its primary motivation isn’t environmental, it’s to raise more taxes.

The anti-farmer rhetoric in the past week suggests it has a secondary motivation to punish primary producers for political reasons and drive a wedge between town and country.

In doing so it will produce a gap which National is willing and able to fill.


No point taxing what you can’t change

November 18, 2010

The government has always made it clear agriculture wouldn’t be included in the Emissions Trading Scheme unless our competitors did it too.

None of them have any intention of doing so in the near future and Climate Change Minister Nick Smith has given a very clear message that it’s unlikely we will either:

New Zealand farmers are unlikely to be brought into the emissions trading scheme in 2015 unless scientific advances are made in reducing animal emissions and our trading partners make giant strides in putting a price on carbon, the Government says.

Speaking at the Federated Farmers National Council yesterday, Climate Change Minister Nick Smith noted the Government had already said it would not proceed with the inclusion of agriculture and other sectors until it sees comparable progress from other countries.

Including agriculture here when it’s not done anywhere else will make our produce less competitive. It won’t make any improvement to global emissions and may even make them worse if production drops here and increases in other places where it is less efficient.

The requirement for scientific advances before agriculture is included is also important.

The point of emissions taxes is to change behaviour.

Science has not yet come up with anything which will help to reduce agricultural emissions so there’s no point taxing them.

This doesn’t mean New Zealand is doing nothing to fulfil it’s Kyoto commitments. The Global Research Alliance, which was a New Zealand initiative at the Copenhagen conference last year, is attracting praise and investment from around the world.


Turnbull down but not out

December 8, 2009

A former party leader can go quietly or stay and fight.

Malcolm Turnbull, who was deposed as Australian Liberal Party leader last week, has a blog post Time for Some Straight Talking on Climate Change  which indicates he’s doing the latter:

While a shadow minister, Tony Abbott was never afraid of speaking bluntly in a manner that was at odds with Coalition policy.

So as I am a humble backbencher I am sure he won’t complain if I tell a few home truths about the farce that the Coalition’s policy, or lack of policy, on climate change has descended into.

First, let’s get this straight. You cannot cut emissions without a cost. To replace dirty coal fired power stations with cleaner gas fired ones, or renewables like wind let alone nuclear power or even coal fired power with carbon capture and storage is all going to cost money.

To get farmers to change the way they manage their land, or plant trees and vegetation all costs money.

Somebody has to pay.

So any suggestion that you can dramatically cut emissions without any cost is, to use a favourite term of Mr Abbott, “bullshit.” Moreover he knows it.

The whole argument for an emissions trading scheme as opposed to cutting emissions via a carbon tax or simply by regulation is that it is cheaper – in other words, electricity prices will rise by less to achieve the same level of emission reductions. . .

Maybe Tony Abbott and Phil Goff should consult each other on how to handle the choir when some of its members are singing a different song.

Hat tip: Larvatus Prodeo


Learning to play the game

November 30, 2009

The ETS has been enacted and whether or not we like the rules we’re going to have to learn to play the game.

Most attention has been on costs, but there will also be opportunities.

I’ve yet to find anyone who fully understands what’s involved in carbon farming, but most reasonable sized farms in our district have hillsides and gullies which are probably better suited to trees than crop or pasture.

Farmers may also be able to develop micro-generation of power from small wind farms.

There is also an opportunity at Copenhagen, to negotiate changes to the one-size-fits-all rules which disadvantage New Zealand because most of our emissions come from agriculture, 94% of which is is exported, and we grow exotic trees well for forestry.

In Friday’s print edition of the National Business Review, Federated Farmers’ president Don Nicolson gave his wish list for changes:

* Excluding emissions from crops and farm animals from the successor to the Kyoto protocol; or if emissions from primary food production are included it needs to take a global not an individual country perspective. That would allow efficient producers like us to “over emit” because we “over produce” food, most of which is exported.

* International funding for the Global Alliance concept to tackle agricultural emissions.

* The inclusion of pre-1990 forests as permanent forestry sinks.

*The ability to count non-forest crops, plantings and grasses for credits (eg riparian plantings which aren’t Kyoto compliant).

* Global standardisation of foot printing methodologies.

* Inclusion of territorial seas and Exclusive Economic Zones as permanent carbon sinks.

How much progress our negotiators make on these points will be one measure of whether the focus is on making a positive difference to the environment or just on politics.


NZ a square peg in round ETS hole

November 24, 2009

New Zealand’s problem is that we’re different.

Primary production and industries based on it are our bigeest export earners; almost all our forestry is from exotic species; we have relatively little heavy industry and the bulk of our power is already from renewable sources.

The Kyoto Protocol wasn’t designed for countries like us.

The heavy reliance on primary production is much more common in developing countries. But around half our emissions come from animals and there is little, short of reducing stock numbers, we can do to reduce them immediately. Research is being undertaken to reduce emissions from livestock but practical, affordable solutions may be years away.

The rules requiring new trees to be replanted where old ones were felled was aimed at protecting rain forests and indigenous species. It seems no-one considered that a clause aimed at protecting indigenous trees shouldn’t apply to exotic timber species in a country where they grow as well as they do here.

Our private vehicle ownership is high by world standards but that reflects our relatively small, widespread population which means that public transport is neither practical nor affordable in many places.

New Zealand is a square peg and we were ill served by the negotiators who tried to fit us into the round ETS hole.

I have a lot of confidence in Tim Groser who will be working on our behalf at the Copenhagen summit.

But I thought the whole thing was a dog’s breakfast from the start and my concerns are even greater now that there are questions over manipulation of climate change data.

Over at Sciblogs Aimee Witcroft raises the possibility the leaked emails have been doctored and points to a Guardian story  on the issue. It quotes Prof Bob Watson, the chief scientific advisor at Britain’s Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs who said,

“Evidence for climate change is irrefutable. The world’s leading scientists overwhelmingly agree what we’re experiencing is not down to natural variation.”

 Also at Sciblogs Gareth Renowden isn’t convinced by the leaked material.

For a contrary view see:  Ian Wishart,  Adolf at No Minister,  Roarprawn, Whaleoil,  Not PC, Poneke,  Mr Tips at NZ Conservative, Thoughts from 40 South, and Something Should Go Here  who says: 

I’ll say it a thousand times, climate change activism is about politics, not science.


The subsidy myth

November 16, 2009

Business New Zealand has released a paper analysing claims that farms and other businesses will be subsidised by households under the proposed emissions trading scheme.

Chief Executive Phil O’Reilly says :

The subsidy myth is based on the mistaken belief that ‘households are good and business is bad’ and that business should be punished for any emissions.

“The truth is not so one-sided. In reality, we are all in this together. Businesses are consumer-driven, and consumers need to see a price signal on carbon in order for carbon emissions to be reduced.

“By making an early start on emissions trading we will be putting NZ export companies in a vulnerable position – they will have to compete against companies overseas that won’t be paying any carbon charges. Allocating carbon credits is simply a way of reducing that vulnerability in the short term, and is in the interest of all New Zealanders.

“Once other countries also adopt emissions trading that vulnerability will cease, reducing the need for carbon credit allocations. So, alarmist publications about ‘decades of subsidies’ are wrong in fact as well as assumption.

“Emotive statements about ‘bludging business’ have the effect of undermining confidence in emissions trading. They reflect an anti-business attitude that could harm our future prosperity.

“We have an altogether more positive view on how businesses and consumers can adapt to carbon pricing,” Mr O’Reilly said.

The Subsidy Myth paper is here.

One of the questions about the ETS no-one seems able to answer easily, is where will the money go? Paul Henry tried to get an answer from carbon credit expert Seeby Woodhouse on Breakfast this morning, but he wasn’t entirely successful.

If no-one can say where they money’s going how can anyone know if it will do any good?

Especially when, as Matthew Hooton pointed out in Friday’s NBR (print edition not online) that any government which seriously proposes paying a liability will be kissing re-election goodbye.


Ag exempt from Aussie ETS

November 15, 2009

The Melbourne Age reports:

Labor has agreed to a keystone Coalition demand that agriculture be excluded permanently from the carbon pollution reduction scheme, raising hopes that Government legislation will pass through Parliament before the Copenhagen climate summit in December.

And the Australian reports Kevin Rudd:

. . . confirmed the government had agreed with the Coalition to exclude agriculture from its proposed emissions trading scheme, to be debated in Parliament this week.

This is one of the reasons that an ETS won’t be imposed on farming in New Zealand when it’s first introduced.

If our ETS isn’t in step with Australia’s we’ll be exporting production across the Tasman, making no reduction in global emissions and depressing the economy in the process.


Feds don’t wear blue gumboots

October 17, 2009

Federated Farmers is sometimes referred to as the National Party in gumboots.

That has never been the case and nor should it be.

Feds is there to look after the best interests of its members and the organisation couldn’t do that if it was aligned in any way with a political party.

Any doubts over whether the organisation wears blue gumboots should have been dispelled by its actions this week.

The organisation put a very strong submission against the proposed Emissions Trading Scheme

“The ETS is world famous only in New Zealand. As the Wall Street Journal showed with several damning editorials, New Zealand is losing business credibility as investors increasingly look at us with incredulity,” says Don Nicolson, President of Federated Farmers. . .

“Federated Farmers made it clear to the Select Committee that the ETS should be repealed and replaced by non-punitive policy measures to transition New Zealand to a low-carbon economy.

Feds is equally vehement in its opposition to proposed increases to ACC levies which could result in a 70% increase in farmers’ levies.

“ACC’s bombshell will hurt farmers already struggling to make ends meet,” says Donald Aubrey, Federated Farmers ACC spokesperson.

. . . Instead of significantly increasing levies, it is time the Government made some tough decisions. I realise some of those decisions may be politically unpopular, but ACC must be brought under control. . . “

Feds would never protest as strongly if it was tied to National and it provides a more powerful voice for its members because of that.

This is apparently lost on some unions which continue to tie themselves to Labour. As Colin Espiner blogged:

But the conspiracy theory peddled by Labour and the EPMU (i.e. Labour) . . .

And Kiwiblog commented:

I can never work out if Labour is the political arm of the EPMU or if the EPMU is the industrial arm of Labour.

The benefits of independence are also lost to the Service & Food Workers Union. An email sent to Kiwiblog shows merger discussions between the SFWU and Public Service Association ended over differences on political allegiance:

The primary reason for doing so was the inability of both unions to reach sufficient agreement on the issue of political relationships and affiliations. Both unions have long standing and proud traditions on the issue of political relationships.

The SFWU has a long standing affiliation status with the Labour party, is this week signing a Memorandum of Understanding with the Green Party and has explored a formal relationship with the Maori Party. The PSA has an equally strong commitment to remaining non affiliated and independent of political parties.

I don’t recall the PSA strongly opposing Labour and its policies but it is free to do so. However, it would be impossible for either the EPMU or SFWU to counter a Labour in the way Federated Farmers does with National and any other parties whose policies are in conflict with the best interests of farmers.

Governments come and governments go. A lobby group which doesn’t commit itself to a party is better placed to deal with all parties whether they are in power or opposition. If it’s allied to a party the interests of  members will take second place to the group’s political allegiance.

 


Last cab has the mana and the power

September 15, 2009

Labour has walked out of talks on the Emissions Trading Scheme because National now has the Maori Party’s support for it.

I think Labour may live to regret this move for two reasons.

The first is that any legislation which has as significant an impact as the ETS ought to have as widespread support as possible so it can endure when the government changes.

Labour steamrolled the existing scheme through in the dying days of their administration without trying to get National onside so they are standing on very shaky ground when they say National’s not playing fair now.

The second is that Labour’s petulance give the Maori Party another reason to ally itself with National rather than Labour at the next election.

The Maori Party were, understandably, furious at being called the last cab off the rank by Helen Clark before the 2005 election. John Key invited them into coalition although he didn’t need their votes to govern.

That not only gave him options, which have paid off now, it gave the Maori Party mana and power which they’ve used to stunning effect by making Labour look irrelevant.

Labour could have taken the principled approach and still tried to work out a grand coalition but they’ve let emotion and short term pique get in the way of the long term good of both the country and their own ambitions.


Where to with the ETS?

September 1, 2009

The majority report from the review on the ETS  has 34 recommendations and four parties have issued minority reports.

The recommendation for agriculture is:

For the agriculture sector, while it is preferable in the long term for the point of obligation to be at the farm gate, we recommend that it is initially set at the processor. Placing the point of obligation at the farm gate means regulating more emitters directly, with higher transaction and administration costs. However, it may also encourage them to respond more readily to a price signal. Therefore, it is desirable for the point of obligation to initially be set at the processor level, which would place obligations on only a small number of firms. The price impacts are likely to be passed through to farmers.

Of course the costs will be passed through to farmers. The alternative is to pass them on to consumers and as none of our competitors will be including agriculture in their ETS that would price our produce out of the market.

But whether its processors or farmers who pay, what difference will it make to emissions? It would be far better to put any money into research rather than an ETS.

As for the rest of the report, dog’s breakfast is the phrase which comes to mind. But I’m not sure that anything more could have been achieved when there are so many different perspectives and conflicting views.

Even the people who accept that the climate is changing and it is being caused by human activity have a wide range of differing opinions on what could and should be done about it.

Regardless of whether or not the science is settled, the politics is and we have to be seen to addressing the issue.

But there are no easy answers when the whole Kyoto protocol appears to have a lot more to do with increasing bureaucracy and taxes than reducing carbon emissions.

It might help if someone could explain how an ETS will have a positive impact on the environment without wrecking the economy.

I’d also like to know where the money will go and what will be done with it when it gets there.

Kiwiblog summarises the main recommendations of the majority report and the four minority ones.


Champion gas in need of a champion

August 22, 2009

It’s time someone stood up for CO2. This humble little gas needs a champion.

There’s plenty of people willing to stick up for dead dogs in umus or dead galahs in aviaries (and so they damn well should!). And there’s heaps of folk happy to defend any beneficiary lucky enough to gross a grand a week (where can the rest of us apply?) but no one, it seems, is willing to stand as CO2’s advocate.

If it was a gay gas hoping to adopt, there would be benchfuls of judges saying, “Why not?” If it was an ethnic gas, seeking a seat at the Super City table, there’d be coalitions of politicians saying, “Good on you, CO2!”

That’s a taste of Jim Hopkins’ column in the Herald. If you want to find out more about cinemactivists emoting about emitting and Greena, The Worrier Princess then read more here. Your laughter lines will thank you for it.

On a similar theme, Federated Farmers president Don Nicolson asks, could greenicide enter the English lexicon as a corruption of that all-defining slogan, clean and green?

Most farmers are clean because of high standards of farm management. Most farmers are green because farms are our offices as well as our homes. The vast majority of New Zealand’s farmers take environmental management very seriously.

Yet clean and green has been corrupted into greenicide, being the adoption of green policies at any cost.

He explains how much the campaign to reduce carbon emissions by 40% would cost, says reductions can’t and won’t work and introduces the convenient truth – that humans evolve.

Technology will enable humans to prosper and grow and that’s a positive and realistic vision of the future farmers support.

Controlling emissions demands an investment in science research and technology. This reconciles a basic human yearning “for more” without killing our planet.

. . . That’s why the Kyoto Protocol and Copenhagen negotiations seem more like a big jobs scheme. Too much spending is on policy, appearance and spin, not nearly enough is spent on solutions.

. . . If New Zealand put 0.05 per cent of gross domestic product into research instead of the emissions trading scheme, it would pump $87.5 million into climate variation research. In the United States, that figure would be some $11 billion and globally, over $34 billion would be raised.

The amount raised also illustrates New Zealand’s very small part in a much bigger global picture. New Zealand doesn’t produce 99.8 per cent of global emissions.

New Zealand can lead internationally on research without killing the economy.

The heroes aren’t the doom merchants who tell us how to live, but the scientists and farmers who enable us to live and prosper. Greenicide is not the solution.

That is the most sensible view on the issue of climate change I have come across.

Money for research will do far more for the environment, without the social and economic damage, than an ETS.

Whatever target we aim for, the ETS is not unlike the medieval system of religious indulgences, which required people to pay before they sinned, and will do as little good.


ETS defacto tax on food

August 18, 2009

Australian retailers are warning that the Emissions Trading Scheme is a defacto tax on food which will push prices up by four to seven percent.

Australian Retailers Association executive director Russell Zimmerman said the ETS would lead to a sharp increase in grocery shelf prices as costs increased at every stage of the production and distribution process.

“It’s going to be a high cost to the consumer – the food manufacturer gets an ETS charge, then there’s delivery, and the retailers use refrigeration and lighting, and the cost of that is all going to be handed on,” Mr Zimmerman said. “Retail is a very competitive business. There’s not a lot of margin in grocery retailing, so these costs can’t be absorbed.”

That’s in a country which isn’t planning to include agriculture in its ETS. The increase in the price of food will be even greater here because agriculture is included in our Kyoto commitment.

The figure mentioned is for the direct costs. There is no mention of the indirect costs involved in, for example, the negotiations about such inane matters as to where trees are planted.

One of the very silly things agreed to under the Kyoto Protocol was that harvesting trees won’t attract a carbon tax if the land from which they were taken is replanted in trees but it will if the replacement trees are planted anywhere else.

New Zealand is now trying to get agreement that the tax exempt status will be granted for replanting whether or not it is on the same land from which the original trees were harvested.

You’d think someone with a little common sense could run an eye over the agreement, highlight clauses like this and get the matter sorted without having to waste time – not to mention expend all the carbon on travel – on negotiations.


Hot air will cost us dearly

March 9, 2009

Submissions on the review of the Emissions Trading Scheme closed at the end of February and how many farmers got round to expressing their views?

I suspect it was very few of us as individulas so thank goodness for organisations like Federated Farmers and Meat & Wool NZ which will have done full and well considered submissions on our behalf.

Just how necessary this is was brought home at an agri-business discussion group meeting in Wellington on Friday.

Chatham House rules applied so I can’t go into details but we were given a very bleak message about the very real costs and no real benefits of including agriculture in an ETS.

We were also left in no doubt about how strong the green (though not necessarily Green) voice is in policy formation and how important it is for the agricultural lobby to speak up so we’re not all drowned in greenwash.

Apropos of this issue, Lambcut who has joined Roarprawn  discovered that New Zealand’s battle against burps and farts from farm animals has reached the Wall Street Journal. 

It’s headed Mutton Methane: Reducing Flatulence to Reduce Global Warming  and says:

In the U.S., the climate-change wrangle focuses on remaking the energy sector. Globally, however, livestock emissions outweigh emissions from the entire transport sector. Add in emissions from deforestation—which is often a consequence of razing trees for fresh pasture land—the plant and animal world makes up about 40% of global greenhouse-gas emissions.

That will feed in to the growing lobby which wants us all to go vegetarian to save the planet and we can be only slightly reassured by the comments the article engendered, most of which thought it was much ado about nothing but hot air.  Jon Morgan  looks at the comments and notes:

These people missed that the US had a large number of cattle that would benefit from New Zealand’s research. Though agriculture produced 9 per cent of the US’s greenhouse gas emissions, its farm animals were responsible for 19 per cent of the world’s emissions. New Zealand’s livestock produced 0.2 per cent of the world total.

If our research can be applied elsewhere, so much the better but those figures makes the submissions to the ETS review even more important because if agriculture is included in the scheme it would have a huge economic impact, no environemntal gain and all over just .2% of global emissions.

That the issue is on the front page of the Wall Street Journal should serve as a warning because the campaign against meat will grow and we  need facts to counter the emotion of the environmental activisits or the hot air will cost us all dearly.


Don’t panic

February 27, 2009

 The creation of non-jobs and anything which hints at protectionism  are to be avoided at all costs, Don Nicolson says in Federated Farmers ‘ submission to the job summit.

New Zealand is the poster country for being an open dynamic economy. If any company or organisation proposes protectionist measures, we farmers will tell them to go and read some history books.

(Anyone sqwaking about Sawzi losing the Defence Department contract  please take note and if you don’t understand why, read what Macdoctor  and Poneke have to say about the issue.)
More good advice from Feds:
 “A key part of what Federated Farmers recommends is not to panic.

“We are still selling goods overseas and are now seeing some price stabilisation. We’re actually pretty upbeat about New Zealand’s economic prospects as there’s no direct protein in a silicon chip. Everyone needs food.

 Yet again the importance of agriculture in our economy should be a good thing. People still have to eat and we are very good at producing more food than we need ourselves. People in the overseas markets we sell to might have to give up luxuries but they will still have to eat. 

“Some gentle steps rather than a series of knockout schemes must be the starting point. This is an argument for treading gently and not thinking big.

If there is one good thing about the deficits we’re facing as a country it’s that we can’t afford to think big.

Feds’ submission made four main points:

1. Don’t trip up the economy and cost more jobs by including agriculture in the Emisisons Trading Scheme.

Agriculture should never have been included in our Kyoto commitment and including it in our ETS would cripple the economy while doing nothing for the environment.

2. Include water storeage in the infrastructure package.

For each 1000ha irrigated, the Ministry of Economic Development’s study of the Opuha Dam near Fairlie in South Canterbury, confirmed that some $7.7 million is injected into the local community, 30 jobs were created and household incomes boosted by $1.2 million.

We have seen similar gains from irrigation in North Otago with economic, social and environmental gains.

Feds includes tree planting on marginal land and rural broadband under infrastructure.

It would be difficult to argue against planting trees and I second  PM of NZ  and Farmgirl with their complaints abour rural internet service.

3. Improving skills and getting people into agriculture.

One of the eye openers about dairying is the poor literacy and numeracy of so many job applicants.

4. Concentrate R&D funding on agriculture.

When money is scarce it should be directed at areas of natural advantage and our biggest one is agriculture.

If nothing more than these points are acted on as a result of today’s job summit it will have been very worthwhile.


Aussies put ETS on hold

February 14, 2009

The Australian government has put its Emissions Trading Scheme on hold.

A parliamentary committee has been asked to inquire into the effectiveness of emissions trading as a means to reduce carbon pollution.

How very sensible.

Whether or not the climate is changing there is no point inflicting an expensive exercise on people and businesses if it’s not going to reduce carbon pollution.

Hat Tip: Dear John


Red & green tape costly

December 2, 2008

Farmers will welcome John Key’s confirmation that our delegation to talks on climate change later this month will seek special treatment for agriculture.

But the Green Party reckons this could threaten our exports.

Mr Key said negotiators in Poznan, Poland, would argue aggressively for any targets on greenhouse gas emissions for New Zealand to take account of the significant contribution farming played in the economy.

The industry accounts for half of New Zealand’s carbon emissions. But Greens co-leader Russel Norman said the stance would undermine international efforts to reduce emissions and could threaten farm exports as other countries focused on high-emitting industries.

But as Federated President Don Nicolson found at the International Federation of Agricultural Producers: 

They too asked us why New Zealand is going down this track when Kyoto doesn’t ask for it, doesn’t require it and doesn’t expect it.  They are shocked and concerned. 

Wellington Regional Chamber of Commerce CEO, Charles Finny, confirms this in his blog Dear John with a post entitled Greens Speaking Rubbish:

One of the great myths that was put around in the last year of so is that if we don’t lead the world and have a scheme that applies to all sectors and all gases we will be threatening our agricultural exports.  We know for a fact that this is not the case.  Indeed some European Governments were arguing against us applying our scheme to agriculture on the grounds that this was too ambitious.  All that Europe was wanting was for New Zealand to have a scheme similar to Europe’s.  Europes scheme does not apply to the agriculture sector.  We also know that the rules that were negotiated for the Kyoto Protocol were far from perfect.  It is to be expected that countries will try and improve these rules.  The previous Government was very active in this space also – on land use and forestry in particular.

The sensible thing when the rules are wrong is to work to change them. The ETS as it stands would have a significant detrimental economic and social impact while doing little if anything for the environment, in fact if emitting industries are pushed off-shore it will make it worse.

If the Greens want to worry about something they could turn their attention to the  red and green tape  which is strangling food production, and is particularly problematic in the devloping world.

Environmental regulations and red tape are having a major impact on food production and security the world over despite international recognition of the precarious food supply situation, according to the head of a global farm lobby group.

Zambian dairy and cropping farmer, and president of the International Federation of Agricultural Producers (IFAP), Ajay Vashee, told the National Press Club yesterday that farmers were increasingly being asked not just to produce food, but provide a range of ecological services to society.

He said though that this was having an impact, particularly in developing countries, on food production and the ability of those nations to trade because often they could not afford those services meaning trade would flow to other, mostly developed, nations. . .

. . . Mr Vashee said the push for ecological services and environmental regulation was particularly affecting developing countries who wanted to participate in trade.

He said environmental regulations were being pushed by developed nations which have the disposable income to dedicate to the environment.

“By virtue of having these policy requirements it is becoming a challenge for farmers in developing countries to meet these kinds of requirements.”

Mr Vashee said farmers must be rewarded for these non-food ecosystem services and it should not be taken for granted that farmers bear such costs on their own.

He said carbon markets should be appropriately designed so that farmers can be part of the solution.

Sustainability is supposed to have the economy, society and environment in balance but the ETS and other initiatives which hamper production with green and red tape create an imbalance. The people who pay the highest cost for this are poorer people and the poorest of these are in the developing world.

The new government’s review of the ETS and attempts to get special treatment are not an abdication of environmental responsibility they are a sensible attempt to make improvements to bad policy.


NZ poorly served by Kyoto negotiators

November 20, 2008

The Emissions Trading Scheme is seriously flawed  and must be deferred engineer John de Beuger says.

There isn’t much low-hanging fruit left to pick when it comes to reducing our carbon footprint.

We already have a high percentage of hydro renewables, and because our animals are free-range and grass fed (not corn fed in feed lots), our agriculture is close to world-best practice.

We can certainly improve in transport, but this will cost.

With no other country even thinking about carbon footprints during the current financial crisis, why are we so hellbent on cutting our throats? This country was very badly served by our Kyoto negotiators.

Take two simple examples – exporting logs and mowing the lawn.

If two ships, one with imported oil and the other with export logs, pass each other outside the Port of Tauranga, under current Kyoto rules we get dinged for both – because we are going to burn the oil, and we have cut down the trees.

Compare this with an oil tanker passing a coal exporter outside Sydney harbour.

Under current Kyoto rules, Australia doesn’t get dinged for exporting coal – which is the main global warming culprit.

Meanwhile New Zealand cops it for exporting plantation forestry trees, which are good news for the planet.

To show how truly stupid the Kyoto Protocol is for food-exporting countries like New Zealand, agricultural consultant Robin Grieve has calculated that mowing a lawn with a motor mower is six times better for the environment than letting sheep graze it. (The environmental impact of sheep, as defined by Kyoto, is 19.65kg carbon-equivalent compared with a lawn mower’s 3.107kg of carbon – i.e., a sheep is 6.3 times worse for the environment than a lawn mower.)

It gets worse. The methane emissions of livestock have been seriously misrepresented because, over time, pasture grass is carbon neutral – whether it is eaten or not.

Grass grows in the spring and summer, and dies back in the autumn after flowering.

If it isn’t eaten, then depending on the decay process, it releases the CO2 it absorbed during its growth back into the atmosphere.

If cattle eat the grass, and live for several years before being slaughtered, they are acting like trees in the sense of temporarily storing carbon that would have been emitted by decay if they hadn’t eaten the grass.

During digestion, a cow discharges methane equivalent to one-third of the carbon consumed, while the other two-thirds is stored in their body until they end up on a hook at the works.

Cows are thus temporary carbon sinks – a simple truth that one might have thought was self-evident to the Kyoto negotiators.

Carbon credits should accrue to grass-fed meat producers, not penalties.

But no, we are dinged for the methane cattle emit because our negotiators misunderstood something as simple as the carbon life cycle of grass.

Under current rules we will be penalised for our agriculture – as well as achieving an own goal by exporting our energy-efficient production to Asia, where the predominant source of energy is coal.

If other countries are not prepared to sacrifice their livelihoods, why should we? In Canada, Stephen Harper has just been re-elected after reneging on Canada’s Kyoto Protocol commitment over synthetic crude oil.

Extracting the dirty oil from Alberta’s tar sands leaves a footprint three times greater than normal crude.

Similarly, in the wake of the global credit crunch, any resolve in Europe to make meaningful emission reductions is crumbling by the day.

Although the European Union ETS only covers about 40% of European emissions, they are fearful that the cost of emission reductions will force energy-intensive industry to exit Europe and set up in parts of the world where there will be no carbon charge.

Never mind about China – they will cheat anyway.

The rules affecting agriculture under the Kyoto Protocol are wrong.

With the agricultural sector being so important to our economy, it is clear that Kyoto 2 seriously needs sorting out.

That’s why deferment of the current ETS is essential.

Act New Zealand’s insistence on setting up a special select committee to investigate the mess is correct.

We can’t afford to get it wrong.

As a small player in this fraught business, it is ridiculous for New Zealand to be a leader – rather than a follower.

It would be lunacy for John Key to adopt a scheme that is so obviously flawed, and shoots us in the foot for no environmental benefit whatsoever.

Agriculture is one of the most important sectors in our economy yet we’re the only country to include it in our Kyoto commitment. The looming economic crisis may well help us because because if other countries put their economies before their Kyoto commitments, many of which will do little or nothing to improve the environment, we will be able to renegotiate our commitments too without being penalised.

We’ve been very poorly served by past negotiations but we can take some comfort from the knowledge that the new Minister for Climate Change negotiations, Tim Groser, has both the will and skills to ensure we’re better served in negotiations from now.


NZ led with first ETS

November 18, 2008

Farmers are relieved the Emissions Trading Scheme is to be reviewed and Federated Farmers is continuing to lobby for the exclusion of animal emissions.

Feds’ President Don Nicolson has just returned from a meeting of the International Federation of Agricultural Producers and said:

They too asked us why New Zealand is going down this track when Kyoto doesn’t ask for it, doesn’t require it and doesn’t expect it.  They are shocked and concerned. 

In an address to Feds national council today he pointed out that New Zealand led the world with one ETS  but no-one else followed.

In 1985 New Zealand agriculture went cold turkey on subsidies and embraced the original ETS, an Efficiency Trading Scheme.  Aside from your Federation, no one recognised this in the lead up to the emissions trading farce. 

At the time we were told the world would follow. 

23-years later we are still waiting.  New Zealand remains the western world’s only beacon of unsubsidised agriculture.

Our mission as your Federation is to ensure the new ETS does not replicate the same mistakes of the one rushed through Parliament with indecent haste in the lead up to the general election. 

A root and branch review is one thing. 

Ensuring it does what it is meant to do is another.  A badly constructed emissions scheme will be the death knell for agriculture in New Zealand.  This is not melodrama but fact. 

There is no room in any way, shape or form for farm animals in any Emissions Trading Scheme.  

To gauge how wrong the last government got it, speak with your colleagues from Europe, the Americas, Asia and Africa.  Last week, in Canberra, they shook their heads in utter disbelief at why farm animals were included in our ETS.  

Our efficiency as farmers means we farm with the lowest carbon footprint in the world.  

New Zealand’s farmers act globally by farming locally.  I’ll repeat that, New Zealand’s farmers act globally by farming locally

I have a loud message for the incoming Government and for the Opposition.  Do not include or advocate for farm animals in any emissions scheme.  

Including animal emissions won’t do anything for the environment and it will come at a huge economic and social cost. That would be bad enough at the best of times let alone now when we’re facing recession and agriculture is the best means of getting the economy growing again.

If there’s a silver lining to that recession it’s that other signatories to the Kyoto Protocol might realise the stupidity of a system which imposes huge economic and social costs with little or no environmental benefit.

Even if they don’t, we have to find a way to meet our international commitments without sabotaging our economy which is what including animal emissions will do.


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