Meat processors and exporters are alarmed by the proposed government climate change targets

Tim Ritchie
Tim Ritchie.

New Zealand’s meat processors and exporters are alarmed at the government’s proposed methane emissions reduction target.

The New Zealand Government introduced the Climate Change Response (Zero Carbon) Amendment Bill to Parliament earlier today, which Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has said is a “practical consensus across Government that creates a plan for the next 30 years, which provides the certainty industries need to get in front of this challenge.”

The Bill sees a net zero approach to reducing emissions of carbon dioxide and introduces a split gas approach for methane and nitrous oxide. Targets have been  set for a 10 per cent reduction in biological methane emissions by 2030, and aim for a provisional reduction ranging from 24 per cent to 47 per cent by 2050, explains climate change minister James Shaw.

“That provisional range will be subject to review by the independent Climate Change Commission in 2024, to take account of changes in scientific knowledge and other developments.

“The independent Climate Change Commission, established by the Bill, will support our emissions reduction targets through advice, guidance, and regular five-yearly ’emissions budgets’, says Shaw.

However, Tim Ritchie, chief executive of the Meat Industry Association (MIA), says the government appears to have based its target on a range of global emissions scenarios in the IPCC report.

“We are concerned the government has cherry-picked aspects of a report summarising global emission pathway scenarios and applied it to New Zealand.

“Their target is contrary to science-based policy. The science indicates that to achieve a goal of no increased global warming from agriculture, nitrous oxide emissions from agriculture must come down to net zero as quickly as possible, but methane only requires a slow decline in the order of 0.3 percent a year.

“This equates to a methane reduction of 10 percent by 2050 (up to 22 percent if the rest of the world achieves significant emissions reductions). The science for this figure is accepted by a number of reputable scientists, who have advised the Government and the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment.

“It is strange that the government’s proposed targets for agriculture are absolute with no offsetting to be counted by farmers planting trees. This is completely contrary to the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment’s recent report. It would lead to the bizarre situation where fossil fuel emitters can offset their emissions by buying forest, but a farmer cannot offset their emissions by planting forest on their own land.”

Ritchie says the government’s proposed emissions targets are simply not possible with current technologies and farming methods, short of a significant decrease in pastoral agriculture.

“This will impose enormous economic costs on the country and threaten many regional communities who depend on pastoral agriculture.

“Such a reduction in farm production will have a serious domino effect onto meat processors, exporters and the wider economy. It is astonishing the government is seeking to do this to New Zealand’s second biggest earner of foreign exchange and a major employer in the regions.”

The meat processing and export industry agrees with the science underpinning climate change, says Ritchie.

“The industry accepts the need to address climate change. We want an agricultural sector that is not contributing to increased global warming.

“The pastoral sector has been working hard to devise a credible and robust framework to enable farms to transition to lower emissions, one which will not cripple agriculture and harm the New Zealand economy. What the government is proposing will completely undermine our efforts to achieve a sustainable pastoral sector by 2050.

“The government needs to go back and talk to the pastoral industry about how it can achieve the ambition we all share of a New Zealand agricultural sector that is not contributing to increased global warming,” says Ritchie.

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