Farmers being asked to do more of climate response in Zero Carbon Bill

The government announced its Zero Carbon Bill this week, with B+LNZ calling for critical changes to the bill to address concerns over its proposed treatment of, and targets for, methane.
Thursday, 9 May 2019

This week the Government announced the Zero Carbon Bill.

B+LNZ is working extremely hard on responding to this and getting the bill changed, including coordinating with our partner organisations across the primary sector.

In the coming weeks, B+LNZ will also be providing you with information and advice on how you can participate in the Parliamentary process on the Zero Carbon Bill and specifically what we believe the impact will be on the sector if the bill progresses as it is currently drafted, and why it needs to change.

In the meantime, B+LNZ has prepared a factsheet for farmers which dives into greater details into what the Zero Carbon Bill proposes and what the changes we need in it are.

The bill sets up the framework for how New Zealand will meet its commitments under the Paris Climate Accord, including the establishment of an independent Climate Change Commission, and targets for different greenhouse gases, and whether or not those gases can be offset by activities such as tree planting.

In terms of what’s relevant for farming, the government announced:

  • A target of reducing carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide emissions to net zero – this means that these emissions can be offset by mitigations such as tree planting and that these gases contribute to no additional warming.
  • A target of reducing gross methane emissions by 10 percent by 2030, and by between 24-47 percent by 2050. This would be an absolute reduction in methane emissions, and they could not be offset in the same way that carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide emissions are able to be.

Beef + Lamb New Zealand agrees with the net zero targets for carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide.

Reducing nitrous oxide to net zero will be challenging for our sector, but we agree that given the long-term nature of this gas it is necessary.

However, the proposed targets for methane, and the inability to offset methane using the same things as is permitted to carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide, are things that we cannot support.

In order to support the Zero Carbon Bill, the changes B+LNZ seeks are:

  • Setting a target for methane which is the equivalent of net-zero carbon, which the scientific advice indicates would be a 10-22 percent reduction by 2050.
  • This would ensure that just like the net-zero carbon and nitrous oxide targets, methane would contribute no additional warming.
  • We also want the ability for farmers to be able to offset biological methane emissions by using on farm planting as well as recognition of the 1.4 million hectares of native forest on sheep and beef farms too.

In essence, what the government is asking agriculture to do is to cool the planet while fossil fuel emitters only have to contribute no additional warming beyond the 1.5c increase agreed in Paris.

Beef + Lamb New Zealand doesn’t believe it is fair or equitable for agriculture to not only be asked to do significantly more than fossil fuel based sectors of the economy, but to also not have the same tools available to us to offset our emissions as they do.

B+LNZ has been involved in discussions with the government in good faith over this bill, and we are extremely disappointed with the outcome.

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