Parliament is considering the Climate Change Response (Zero Carbon) Amendment Bill. It is before the Environment Select Committee which are taking submissions until 16 July
This is a big deal for farmers and all farmers should make a submission. While it has been a breakthrough to finally get recognition from the Government that not all carbon emissions are the same, and that methane needs to be treated differently to CO2, there is still a big problem.
The bill proposes to set punitive unjustifiable targets for methane reduction with a massive 10% reduction by 2030 and reductions of between 24 and 47% by 2050.
In contrast there is no requirement to reduce CO2 by anything at all by 2030 with the bill allowing the new Climate Change Commission it sets up to decide what interim targets are appropriate. While the ultimate target of zero by 2050 is in the legislation any interim targets set by the Commission must take in to account science, technologies available, practicality, public views and economic factors.
There is no such requirement for the interim methane target which is set at 10% regardless of any factors that apply to CO2 targets. This is unfair and unreasonable. It is also unworkable. The Bill itself does not provide any mechanism by which the Government could make farmers reduce emissions by such a large amount in such a short time, so we have no way of knowing how this is going to impact on farmers other than speculate they have to drive down production somehow. Whether this be through the RMA or ETS or some production cap or whatever it will be painful. One could speculate that the target is so unreasonable it will be like all other climate targets and fail and life will go on unchanged but while that would be nice, I would not bet the farm on that happening.
In an official information act response the Minister responded to my question asking what information he used to determine the 10% reduction target by 2030 was necessary, he quoted two reports. The first by the Royal Society spells out that farmers have made big emission efficiency gains and will continue to do so but increasing demand for product will see production increases that will mean absolute emissions will increase, unless production is constrained. Contrary to what the Minister said it did not state that a 10% reduction by 2030 was achievable or even necessary.
The second report he relied on was by the Biological Emissions Reference Group (BERG) and is less helpful to farmers claiming that farmers can achieve emission reductions of 10% by 2030 although for some this would make them unprofitable. It appears the Minister is relying on this report more than the other and has put the reduction target in the legislation, not because it is needed, but because in his view BERG say it can be done. BERG is a group comprised of Dairy NZ, Beef and Lamb, Federated Farmers, Fonterra, Deer Industry, Hort NZ, Fertilizer Association, Ministry for Environment and Ministry for Primary Industry.
It is very important you make a submission. Thousands of people will be submitting against farmers and numbers matter. If only a few hundred farmers can be bothered making a submission it will not help. The main area to submit on is the unfairness and lack of scientific integrity of the 2030 and 2050 methane targets, the huge efficiencies you are making already and the fact that every kg of production produced in NZ produces less emissions than the equivalent produced offshore. Worldwide demand for meat and dairy is going to grow exponentially and the best way to save the planet is to have as much of that increased demand met by NZ production as possible. You should ask to be able to claim carbon credits for every kg produced because it saves emissions. Try that. Also the human story will help, how much any constraint on your profitability will affect you. The other point to make is that the impacts of methane are still being overstated and it does not need to reduce any time soon and in fact should be allowed to increase because under the Paris Agreement food production must not be threatened. You might also like to submit on the point that under the legislation CO2 and N2O can be offset by forestry credits but methane can not. This is not completely negative because presumably it means methane can’t be put in to the ETS. But what will it be put in?
We will send out submission points early next week for you to use in your submission if you wish. If you start with a word document you can then cut and paste from our points and email it to the select committee. We will send a link with the submission points.
To read the Bill click here. http://www.legislation.govt.nz/bill/government/2019/0136/latest/096be8ed81873608.pdf
For a non PDF version click http://www.legislation.govt.nz/bill/government/2019/0136/latest/whole.html#LMS183736