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.