Federated Farmers says the government will be missing an opportunity for real climate leadership at COP26:
Federated Farmers believes the government could work much harder at getting other countries to embrace the latest climate science and to take a ‘split gas approach’ to emissions reduction.
Following the science – that would be a novel approach to climate policy.
“This is what New Zealand should be talking about at COP26 this week,” Federated Farmers president Andrew Hoggard says.
Yesterday Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Climate Change minister James Shaw announced New Zealand’s ‘Nationally Determined Contribution’ to reduce greenhouse gas emissions will be updated to reduce net emissions by 50% below gross 2005 levels by 2030.
While it will be technically possible for New Zealand to work backwards and make this all-gas target consistent with the split gas approach taken domestically, Feds is disappointed the opportunity to show leadership on this issue globally has been squandered.
“This all-gases target misses an opportunity for New Zealand to show genuine leadership by promoting the settled science that while long-lived emissions need to reach net zero to halt warming, short lived emissions do not.”
Feds believes this inaccurate and outdated way methane emissions from agriculture are currently being estimated means that despite biogenic methane only needing to reduce by 0.3% a year to be warming neutral, the metric we keep using incorrectly states the gas is responsible for around 80% of the sector’s warming.
“This is not just an issue for New Zealand farmers, but farmers across the globe.
“Agriculture is the primary source of biogenic methane emissions but short-lived biogenic methane is not the same as long-lived carbon dioxide, it may account for 42% of New Zealand’s emissions if you use the blunt CO2 equivalent (GWP100) formulae, but it doesn’t account for anywhere near 42% of this country’s warming, and the issue is, at the end of the day, warming.
“We are still not accounting for biogenic methane correctly and if we don’t, it will lead to massive structural change in our land use, in the wellbeing of rural communities and our economy, all for little to no gain in global atmospheric warming,” Andrew says.
Nobody seems to be taking nutrient density of food when accounting for emissions nor does our government seem to be taking into account the Paris Accord clause about emissions reduction not being done at the expense of food production.
Nor is anyone asking how much more anyone is prepared to pay for food as production drops and the price increases.
If New Zealand and the rest of the world continue to treat biogenic methane as if it accumulates in the atmosphere in the same way as carbon dioxide, there is a real risk emissions budgets and targets will not reflect what is physically happening in the atmosphere.
In recent conversations with government Federated Farmers asked the government to showcase New Zealand’s leadership on biogenic methane reduction at COP26.
“The form of the NDC was one such opportunity to show leadership. While this opportunity has now been missed, we hope that leadership is shown in other areas, such as giving farmers the regulatory framework to use tools that reduce emissions while maintaining food production.”
The government’s recently released draft Emissions Reduction Plan contains very few actual new policies to reach the old 2030 NDC, let alone this new target.
“We want to see New Zealand farmers empowered to innovate their way to climate neutrality. New Zealand farmers are not only being let down by targets that go beyond what is needed for biogenic methane to reach climate neutrality, but also by an inability to use tools, such as the feed inhibitor Bovaer, to reduce emissions,” Andrew says.
“Mitigation tools are being given the regulatory green light internationally but in New Zealand we are constrained by red tape.
“We would be concerned if the government were to increase the ambition of our NDC simply to channel resources offshore into some other carbon-offsetting programme – when this investment could be made domestically.”
New Zealand is the only country in the world with clear and explicit targets for emissions reductions from biogenic methane.
While these split emissions targets need to be followed up with split emissions budgets, politicians and officials should be promoting, and not downplaying, these targets on the global stage.
“We are also alone in having specific policy to manage and reduce agricultural emissions without introducing subsidies, that is world leading,” Andrew says.
The KPMG Net Zero Readiness Index recently rated New Zealand as the world leader in agriculture emissions reduction programmes.
“Now we need our own government to step up, show real leadership, and get other countries to see how biogenic methane needs to be accounted for differently.
“We can show leadership to the world in other fields, like trade negotiation, in sports strategy and in human rights. Why can’t we do it for climate change?”
James Shaw ought to be telling COP26 that it would be better for the planet if New Zealand produced more food, instead its climate change policy could cripple the economy:
The announcement of a Glasgow climate change target of 50 per cent reduction by 2030 goes beyond New Zealand’s fair share and will cost the country billions of dollars, say National’s Climate Change spokesperson Stuart Smith and Energy and Resources spokesperson Barbara Kuriger.
“The previous National Government took a target of a 30 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from 2005 levels by 2030 to Paris in 2015, says Smith.
“At the time, National emphasised that, due to New Zealand having almost 50 per cent of our emissions from agriculture and having one of the highest levels of renewable energy in the world, this target was incredibly challenging for New Zealand to achieve.
“Labour has shown time and again it is good at making climate change pronouncements but poor on delivery. We have had a climate change nuclear-free moment, a climate emergency and now this target. Meanwhile, greenhouse gas emissions are going up under Labour and record amounts of coal are being burned at Huntly to keep the power on.
That’s coal that’s far dirtier than that which can no longer be mined here.
“It is true that other countries have announced similar target numbers to this, but we need to consider that New Zealand already has high levels of renewable electricity production and higher levels of agricultural emissions. This makes a 50 per cent target much harder for New Zealand to achieve.
“The Government says it is following the science, but the latest IPCC report states methane need only reduce 0.3 per cent per year. This target goes miles beyond that.
“It is disappointing Labour hasn’t supported our farmers by reflecting this science and taking a split-gas target.
“To put the reduction of 50 per cent of emissions in just nine years in perspective, it requires New Zealand to reduce emissions by about 6 per cent per year, every year, from now until 2030.
“It is estimated that global fossil fuel use fell about 6 per cent in 2020 due to the Covid lockdowns, not only would New Zealand need to achieve this level of reduction next year, we would then have to double that reduction the following year, then another 6 per cent the next. And on and on it goes.
“What advice has the Government received on the ability for agriculture to meet such a target without large cuts in stock numbers? What advice has the Government received any sector of the economy can reduce emissions by 50 per cent in just nine years?
Kuriger says the target will cost the New Zealand economy billions.
“New Zealand is staring at a mountain of debt right now as we try to lift ourselves up out of Covid. So far it is actually our agricultural sector which has held the economy together. Trying to pay back the Covid debt at a time we cut cattle and sheep numbers is a scary thought.”
Smith says there are major concerns about Labour is likely to need to lean heavily into international carbon markets.
“National supports using global carbon markets to achieve our targets, but there is no sense in setting a target that over-reaches and simply signs New Zealand up to a huge bill as we buy units from overseas.
“Most Kiwis won’t thank the Government for signing them up to a huge carbon markets bill.
“National supports climate action. We are committed to a highly ambitious 30 per cent reduction by 2030. But a 50 per cent target raises huge questions the Prime Minister and the Minister for Climate Change need to answer.”
Our economy, and the planet would both be better off if the money wasted on political initiatives like this was instead directed to research into science-based solutions.