NZ farmers can reduce biological emissions, but need more information to help them do it

BERG Report 2018

A new report shows many farmers want to take action to reduce biological emissions, but need more information about the steps they can take.

It also shows if all farmers operated using today’s best practice, New Zealand may be able to reduce emissions by up to 10 percent. Continued funding for research into new, novel technologies will be important for reducing emissions further.

The Biological Emissions Reference Group (BERG), established in June 2016, is the culmination of two years of research into the opportunities, costs and barrier to reducing biological emissions in New Zealand’s primary industries.

BERG is a joint agriculture industry-government working group of nine key organisations: Beef + Lamb NZ Ltd, Dairy NZ, Deer Industry NZ, Federated Farmers, The Fertiliser Association of NZ, Fonterra, HortNZ, Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) and Ministry for the Environment (MfE).

Penny Nelson, deputy director general policy and trade at MPI, says the group saw the need for a good evidence base to support the sector to address some key climate challenges.

“Farmers were asking what practical things they can do to reduce their emissions. We needed to improve our shared understanding of the possible innovation and solutions, and the barriers standing in farmers’ way.

“The findings highlight the need for good information and tailored advice for farmers,”says Dr Tim Mackle, chief executive at DairyNZ

“There is no single answer to reducing emissions – we’ll need a combination of solutions tailored to land and farm types.

Sam McIvor
Sam McIvor.

“The primary sectors will face a lot of change over the next few decades, as they have the last few. This evidence will help farmers, government and advisors to steer the right path and understand the possible costs,” he says.

Cheryl Barnes, MPI deputy secretary, water and climate change says, It’s great that the agricultural sectors and government are working in partnership to provide information to inform discussion on these important issues.

Sam McIvor, B+LNZ chief executive, notes an additional benefit from establishing BERG has been the strengthening of relationships between its members.

“Our farmers have already made progress in reducing emissions and improving productivity and are committed to continuing on this journey, he says.

The reference group commissioned nine new research projects. The work has already informed advice to the government on options for the 2050 emissions target and will feed into future planning and policy. It has also been used by the Productivity Commission, the Interim Climate Change Committee (ICCC) and industry.

Ministers welcome the report

The Ministers of Agriculture and Climate Change have also welcomed the report.

Damien O'Connor, Minister of Agriculture
Damien O’Connor.

“In essence, BERG has looked at what lowering emissions means for the primary sector,” says Damien O’Connor.

“It’s been no small task, and I thank the group for taking on the challenge to help answer some big questions.

“They’ve provided a comprehensive range of findings; from farmers’ perceptions of climate change through to views on the likelihood of new technologies being available to reduce emissions in future,” says O’Connor.

“A key finding of the BERG report is that, overall, biological emissions in the future could potentially be reduced 10 per cent to 21 percent by 2030, and 22 percent to 48 per cent by 2050,”  James Shaw says.

“That offers real hope to farmers and agricultural businesses which want to reduce emissions while maintaining productivity and profitability.

“It also offers real hope to a world that needs to expand food production for a growing global population but also needs to bring down climate pollution at the same time,” he says.

OÇonnor notes, “The findings show that farmers need better information and tailored advice to determine what steps they can take to reduce emissions on their farms..

“We want to thank all the organisations involved for their contributions to this report,” he says.

“The report highlights the importance of clear government policies so they can make well-informed decisions about their farms, their farm practices and what their land can be used for,” adds Shaw.

“The Government is committed to providing clear signals to all areas of the economy about climate change policies, and the BERG’s work will help inform decisions we make around agriculture and climate change.”

You can download a copy of the Report of the Biological Emissions Reference Group here.

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