Global problem requires global solutions


The Green Party continues its blinkered approach to the environment with its call to include agriculture in the Emissions Trading Scheme:

The call comes in the wake of a study, part funded by the New Zealand Government,1 showing that global warming pollution from agriculture must be cut significantly to keep global temperatures below a 2° rise, and that currently not nearly enough is being done to achieve this.

“National needs to stop making excuses and set a deadline to end the growing levels of climate-damaging pollution from agriculture,” said Green Party primary industries spokesperson Eugenie Sage.

“The National Government has repeatedly refused to push the agricultural sector to reduce climate damaging pollution, despite this being a requirement for the energy sector, transport providers and nearly every other New Zealander.


The government was the prime mover behind the establishment of the Global Research Alliance on Agricultural GHGs which is using international collaboration to find  solutions. It’s also working with farmers who are paying for research into methods to reduce emissions without the financial and social costs that the Green’s solution would impose, not just on farmers but the wider economy.

“All New Zealanders, including farmers, want to preserve a safe and stable climate for future generations. That means facing reality, and committing to an end to pollution-intensive farming. . . 

Facing reality means accepting that global problems require global solutions.

That means understanding that reducing food production here would increase emissions because production would increase in other countries with far less efficient farming methods than those employed by most New Zealand farmers.

It also means accepting good science which could show that genetic modification is one of the solutions.

AgResearch scientists have developed a genetically modified ryegrass that cuts greenhouse gas emissions by up to 30% but biotechnology experts warn regulations could delay its use.

Though it has several environmental benefits and could boost production it faces regulatory hurdles here because it has been genetically engineered.

The scientists have shown in the laboratory the ryegrass, called High Metabolisable Energy (HME), can reduce methane emissions from animals by 15% to 30% while modelling suggests a reduction in nitrous oxide of up to 20%.

It has also shown resilience to dry weather and can increase milk production by up to 12%.

Environmentalists have berated agriculture for not reducing greenhouse gas emissions but if laboratory results are replicated in the field, HME could reignite the GM debate.

UN research shows New Zealand farmers can cut climate damaging pollution with current technology, by as much as 17 percent. The Government shouldn’t be pinning all its hopes on a silver bullet solution to agricultural pollution.

“Leading dairy farmers are showing they can increase profit and cut pollution by optimising stocking rates and by shifting production to high-value, low-impact organic dairy farming. We need all farmers to follow suit,” said Ms Sage.

Of course reducing stock would reduce emissions here but it would at best do nothing to reduce world-wide emissions and would almost certainly lead to an increase as less efficient producers elsewhere increased their production.

The Green solution would reduce food production and lead to increases in both the price of food, which would impact hardest on the poor, and emissions.

Farmers are doing all they can to reduce emissions globally rather than the smoke and mirrors approach of cuts here replaced by increases there the Green Party is promoting.

ETS ball and chain on ag – AbacusBio


The proposed ETS will add costs to agriculture but not necessarily reduce any greenhouse gases,  a report by Dunedin consultants AbacusBio says.

The report said that rather than being a gun to the head of agriculture as described by its critics, the emission trading scheme as proposed would be a “ball and chain dragging farmers down”. . .

. . . AbacusBio consultant and report co-author Peter Amer said while processors would have to collect a levy on every kilogram or raw product handled to cover the sector’s ETS obligations, it would not be an incentive for farmers to reduce their emissions.

He said it would need a costly bureaucracy and lead to inaccurate accounting because it would be difficult to match the number of breeding stock born on farms with the number of cull stock killed.

The AbacusBio report suggests allowing farmers to opt into the scheme and to prove they have lowered emissions.

“Well-organised and motivated farmers on medium to large-sized farms opting in and reducing emissions would become the innovators leading a change in industry farming practices,” the report said.

Benefits to these farmers would need to exceed the bureaucratic cost, but it would also be a test of emission reducing technology and practices, and help develop emissions assessment and auditing practices.

And there’s the difficulty – the costs are likely to be high and we have yet to get the tools to reduce emissions.

Dr Amer noted only four of the 34 recommendations made to the government by the ETS review committee related to agriculture.

This indicated the sector lacked political clout, but he said it was political reality that our customers in Europe, the United States and Asia were “embracing climate change issues,” even though our competitors were unlikely to face comparable levies.

“It will be critical that we claim the moral high ground on the social and ethical integrity of our products, and in this way claw back some of the disadvantages of our agricultural ETS.”

Our most important industry lack political clout, climate change issues are the cause de jour and no-one else is including agriculture in their ETS.

How do we claim the moral high ground and at what cost?

Anyone for Skippy steaks?


A University of Sydney study found that farming kangaroos  instead of sheep and cattle could cut greenhouse gases produced by grazing livestock by almost 25%.

Farm animals account for about 11% of Australia’s greenhouse emissions. The study reckons that replacing 7 million cattle and 36 million sheep with 175 million kangaroos by 2020 could produce the same amount of meat while lowering greenhouse gases by 3% a year.


However, the study said changing farming practices in Australia, which is one of the world’s top wool and beef producers but sells by comparison only small amounts of kangaroo meat for human consumption, would not be easy.


“The change will require large cultural and social adjustments and reinvestment. One of the impediments to change is protective legislation and the status of kangaroos as a national icon,” it said.

It will also take a marketing campaign because anyone old enough to remember Skippy might have some trouble digesting the idea of kangaroo steaks.

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