Science not unsubstantiated aspiration

August 9, 2019

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) says better land management can contribute to tackling climate change but is not the only solution.

. . . Land must remain productive to maintain food security as the population increases and the negative impacts of climate change on vegetation increase. This means there are limits to the contribution of land to addressing climate change, for instance through the cultivation of energy crops and afforestation. It also takes time for trees and soils to store carbon effectively. Bioenergy needs to be carefully managed to avoid risks to food security, biodiversity and land degradation. Desirable outcomes will depend on locally appropriate policies and governance systems. . .

Greenpeace must have missed the bit about food security and locally appropriate solutions because it immediately called for New Zealand’s dairy heard to be halved which, Politik points out, would cost the country approximately $8.3 billion in lost exports.

On top of that, there would be job losses on farm and in the downstream businesses, irreversible depopulation of rural communities and global emissions would increase as less efficient farmers in other countries ramped up production to meet the demand for food we’d no longer be producing.

Greenpeace would be more aptly named Redpeace to reflect its politics. Their call ignores the fact that what is being called for is largely what New Zealand farmers are already doing, and are striving to do better.

It comes on the eve of Federated Farmers submission to the select committee on the Zero Carbon Bill where they called for honesty on what farmers are being asked to do:

Adopt a methane target that science tells us will ensure no additional impact on global warming, not an unsubstantiated aspiration that will cause lasting damage to rural communities and the standard of living of all New Zealanders.

That was the message from Federated Farmers to the Select Committee hearing on the Zero Carbon Bill this morning.

“Federated Farmers agrees with the current text in the Bill on the need to achieve net zero carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide in the NZ agricultural industry by 2050,” Feds climate change spokesperson Andrew Hoggard said.

“This ambitious support is in spite of the industry being heavily reliant on reliable energy supply and internal combustion powered vehicles for transport, both of which produce carbon dioxide, and despite the task of agriculture reducing nitrous oxide to net zero being incredibly challenging.”

Farmers “embrace this challenge” because those two gases are long-lived and build up in the atmosphere, so New Zealand – and the world – needs to get those gases to net zero as quickly as possible, Hoggard said. But methane, which is belched by livestock, is a short-lived gas that produces almost no additional warming and flows in and out of the atmosphere if emitted at a constant rate.

The science says NZ agriculture needs to reduce methane by about 0.3% a year, or about 10% by 2050, to have no additional warming effect – or in other words a zero carbon equivalent. Yet a 10% target has been set for 2030 – much earlier than for any other sector of society – and up to 47% methane reductions by 2050.

Hoggard told the Select Committee that appears to be “because it seems easier to tell people to consume less animal-based protein than it is to cut back on trips to Bali.

“If that is the case then let’s be open and honest and admit the agriculture sector is being asked to do more than its share.”

Farmers are in a minority, it’s far easier to pick on them than to ask people to make real and meaningful sacrifices.

The Minister has challenged those disagreeing with the proposed targets to explain why he shouldn’t follow the advice of the IPCC. Federated Farmers provided three main reasons:

– a key piece of advice in the relevant IPCC’s 2018 report was not to use the numbers from that report as precise national targets,

– the report also recommended a much lower target for nitrous oxide but Federated Farmers is ignoring that as it is a long-lived gas.

– finally, the report modelled numerous pathways that all achieved the 1.5 degree warming target. In some of those pathways biogenic methane actually increased. Economists pondered those pathways to work out the least cost to the globe of achieving the target, not the least cost to New Zealand.

“This report was clearly not designed to be copy and pasted into our domestic legislation. Modelling on what is the least cost to the economy for New Zealand to do its part hasn’t been done,” Hoggard said.

Answering Select Committee member questions, Hoggard suggested there was a strong case for rewarding or incentivising farmers to go beyond 10% by 2050 methane cuts. Methane reductions beyond 10% would actually have a cooling effect on the planet and in effect was the same as planting trees to sequester carbon, a practice rewarded through the ETS.

But planting trees with a 30-year life before harvest is only a temporary solution, and blanketing productive farmland with pines kills off jobs, spending and inhabitants that rural communities depend on.

The science, peer reviewed and provided by Environment Commissioner Simon Upton, says forestry should not be used to offset fossil fuel emissions but could be used for shorter-lived gases like methane.

However, if farmers achieved the 10% methane reductions that ensure no additional warming, and are rewarded for striving for additional reductions, there is incentive to invest in additional emissions reduction technology.

“That keeps the rural community going, and reduces global warming – a win/win situation.”

The proposed policy is lose-lose.

The only way for farmers to meet unrealistic targets would be to reduce stock.

That would have devastating economic and social consequences and no environmental gain.

If the government expect us to accept the science on climate change, it must accept the science too, all the science including that on methane, and not just the bits it finds convenient.

It must also accept the Paris Accord’s stipulation that climate change mitigation should not come at the expense of food production.


Food security paramount

July 26, 2019

Horticulture New Zealand says  the Zero Carbon Bill must amended to include all the Paris Agreement, including safeguarding food production.

‘At the moment, the Bill just focuses on one part of the Agreement, climate change,’ said HortNZ Chief Executive, Mike Chapman who appeared before the Climate Change Select Committee this morning. 

‘The full Agreement makes it quite clear that countries need to find ways to adapt to climate change “in a manner that does not threaten food production”. 

‘As currently drafted, the New Zealand Bill makes no mention of food production.  To the horticulture industry, this is a significant oversight given this legislation will be fundamental to New Zealand’s future. 

It’s also a sign of how blinkered the government is to primary production and its importance to New Zealand.

‘New Zealand’s primary sector is already one of the most carbon efficient in the world.  However, to meet future obligations, we will need to reduce the carbon needed to produce the whole food basket, while not reducing the volume or nutritional value of that food.’ 

Mr Chapman said as it stands, the Bill is like saying a half built house is completely finished.

‘We feel strongly that the Government needs to honour the full Paris Agreement and make amendments to the Bill to ensure that New Zealand has “food security”. 

‘By the term “food security”, we mean that our country is able to grow all the fresh and healthy food that we as New Zealanders need.  This will be in a world where it is increasingly difficult to import fresh food, due to all manner of challenges.  The impact of climate change, isolationism and trade tariffs will be the key issues.’ 

Food security ought to be of paramount importance to any government.

In New Zealand, given the importance primary production plays in the economy our government ought to be concerned not just about our ability to feed ourselves, but our ability to feed people in other countries too.

Instead it’s allowed its focus on saving the planet to blind itself to the necessity of feeding the country and the world.

The government is asking us all to make sacrifices and pay higher prices to reach its commitment to carbon reduction under the Paris Accord but completely ignoring the Accord’s stipulation that carbon mitigation should not come at the expense of food production.

This blindness is even worse when our contribution to global emissions is tiny and our contribution to world food supplies is significant.

If the government wants us to accept the science on climate change it must follow the science in its response.

If it wants us to help it meet its commitment reduce emissions under the Paris Accord, it must accept the Accord’s requirement to meet commitments without threatening food production.

HNZ’s full submission is here.

 


%d bloggers like this: