New Zealand government’s proposed ‘Burp tax’ to tackle climate change

The New Zealand government on Tuesday proposed taxing greenhouse gases produced by farm animals burping and peeing as part of a plan to tackle climate change.

The government has said the farm tax will be a world first and farmers should be able to recoup the cost by charging more for climate-friendly produce.

But farmers quickly condemned the plan. Federated Farmers, the industry’s main lobby group, said the plan would “rip the guts out of small towns in New Zealand” and see farms replaced by trees.

Federated Farmers chairman Andrew Hoggard said farmers had been trying to work with the government for more than two years on an emissions reduction plan that would not reduce food production.

“Our plan was to keep farmers in farming,” Mr Hoggard said. Instead, he said farmers would sell their farms “so fast you won’t even hear the dogs barking in the back of the ute”. [pickup truck] while they are leaving.

Opposition lawmakers from the conservative ACT party said the plan would actually increase global emissions by moving agriculture to other countries that were less efficient at producing food.

New Zealand’s agricultural industry is vital to its economy. Dairy products, including those used to make infant formula in China, are the country’s main source of export revenue.

There are only 5 million people in New Zealand, but about 10 million beef and dairy cattle and 26 million sheep.

Oversized industry has made New Zealand unusual in that around half of its greenhouse gas emissions come from farms. Farm animals produce gases that warm the planet, particularly methane from cattle burps and nitrous oxide from their urine.

The debate in New Zealand is part of a wider global reflection on the impact of agriculture on the environment and the measures some say are needed to mitigate it.

In the Netherlands, farmers dumped bales of hay on roads and drove tractors on busy highways to protest government proposals to cut emissions of harmful pollutants.

In New Zealand, the government is committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and making the country carbon neutral by 2050. Part of this plan includes a commitment to reduce methane emissions from farm animals by 10% by 2030 and up to 47% by 2030. 2050.

Under the government’s proposed plan, farmers would start paying for emissions in 2025, with pricing yet to be finalized.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said all money raised from the proposed farm tax would be plowed back into the industry to fund new technology, research and incentive payments for farmers.

“New Zealand farmers are poised to be the first in the world to reduce agricultural emissions, positioning our biggest export market for the competitive advantage that brings an increasingly demanding world about where our food comes from. their food,” Ms Ardern said.

Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor said this was an exciting opportunity for New Zealand and its farmers.

“Farmers are already feeling the impact of climate change with more regular droughts and floods,” Mr O’Connor said. “Taking the lead on farm emissions is both good for the environment and our economy.

The Liberal Labor government’s proposal recalls a similar but unsuccessful proposal made by a previous Labor government in 2003 to tax farm animals for their methane emissions.

Farmers at the time also vehemently opposed the idea, and political opponents derided it as a “fart tax” – although a “burp tax” would have been technically more accurate because most methane emissions come from belching. The government eventually abandoned the plan.

According to opinion polls, Ms Ardern’s Labor Party has lost popularity and fallen behind the main national opposition party since Ms Ardern won a second term in 2020 in a landslide victory of historic proportions.

If Ms Ardern’s government fails to reach an agreement on the proposal with farmers, who have considerable political influence in New Zealand, it is likely to make it harder for Ms Ardern to win re-election next year. next when the nation returns to the polls.

This story was reported by the Associated Press.

Teresa H. Sadler