New Zealand farmers offer to pay for emissions to fight climate change | New Zealand
Farm leaders in New Zealand have recommended that the government put a price on agricultural greenhouse gas emissions for the first time, as the rural sector is under significant political pressure due to its disproportionate contribution to climate change.
The recommendation of He Waka Eke Noa, a partnership between agricultural leaders and the government, risks deepening an emerging schism between agricultural representatives and grassroots farmers, who have taken to the streets in recent years to protest the introduction environmental regulations and criticizing industry leaders for being too friendly with the government.
However, farm leaders felt they had little choice but to make the proposal. Jacinda Ardern’s centre-left government had legislated that unless farmers put in place an emissions pricing system, agriculture – which generates more than half of New Zealand’s industrial and domestic emissions – would automatically enter in the country’s emissions trading system, from which it is currently exempt. .
“We think that would be disastrous and that’s what pushed us to find a better solution,” said Andrew Morrison, chairman of Beef + Lamb NZ, which represents beef and lamb farmers.
“The old days of stamping your foot and saying, ‘This is how it’s supposed to be and we don’t care what anybody in town thinks’? They are long gone,” Andrew Hoggard, president of farmer advocacy group Federated Farmers, said of his involvement in He Waka Eke Noa.
Although the group did not offer a specific price for farmer programming, they stressed that it should be “as low as possible”. In their modeling, they used an initial price of 11 cents per kilogram of methane and 0.4 cents per kilogram of carbon dioxide or nitrous oxide.
The group estimates that by 2030, these prices would reduce agricultural emissions of methane by around 4.5% and nitrous oxide by around 3%. They say that when combined with existing climate policies, these reductions will be enough for New Zealand to meet its statutory targets of 10% methane reduction by 2030 and zero nitrous oxide and carbon dioxide by here 2050.
The proposal was greeted with derision by some climate advocates. “It’s pathetic,” says Mike Joy, a leading freshwater ecologist. “It’s not ambitious, it’s a loophole that just puts more pressure on other sectors of society.”
But it comes as New Zealand’s once mighty farming community begins to fragment. In March, Groundswell – an influential grassroots farmers group – denounced Beef + Lamb NZ and Dairy NZ, both members of He Waka Eke Noa, as “pet lobby groups” for the government. Bryce Mckenzie, the co-founder of Groundswell, describes He Waka Eke Noa as “an attack on agriculture”.
Dr Hugh Campbell, professor of sociology at the University of Otago, says that because of this internal political pressure, agricultural leaders “know where they need to go. [on climate]but they see it as their role to slow it down until it is as slow as possible”.
The government said it would decide by the end of the year whether or not to accept He Waka Eke Noa’s recommendation.