Beef + Lamb New Zealand broadly supports the thrust of the Climate Change Commission’s draft advice to the Government but is concerned at the high levels of carbon offsetting and significant methane emissions reductions proposed.
“Sheep and beef farmers are committed to playing their part in the actions needed to achieve New Zealand’s climate change objectives,” says Sam McIvor, chief executive of B+LNZ, which has lodged its submission to the Commission on behalf of sheep and beef farmers.
“This is why B+LNZ’s goal is for the sheep and beef sector to work towards being carbon neutral by 2050. We are also fully committed to He Waka Eke Noa -- the Primary Sector Climate Action Partnership, to implement a framework by 2025 to reduce agricultural greenhouse gas emissions and build the agriculture sector's resilience to climate change.”
B+LNZ supports the Commission’s focus on the need for New Zealand to decarbonise its economy by making actual real reductions of gross carbon dioxide emissions.
“We welcome the Commission’s clear message that New Zealand must significantly decrease its reliance on exotic forestry to offset its gross emissions and meet its climate change targets.
“However, while the Commission suggests New Zealand must reduce its reliance on forestry offsets, in particular from pinus radiata, the levels of budgeted removals are still very high and will lead to swathes of New Zealand sheep and beef farmland being converted to pine trees.
“This is not supported by New Zealanders, and it will have significant negative impacts for sheep and beef farming and for rural communities.
“B+LNZ is also calling on the Commission to propose clear limits on the amount of offsetting New Zealand should rely on, and provide policy guidance to the Government that will deliver on these limits – such as changes to the Emissions Trading Scheme.”
B+LNZ opposes the recommendation for the Government to implement measures that would lead to a 13.2 percent reduction of biogenic methane emissions below 2017 levels by 2030.
“This represents a 32 percent increase in the level of ambition compared to the 2030 biogenic methane target contained in the Zero Carbon Act, which is to reduce methane emissions to 10 percent below 2017 levels by 2030.
“The Commission has deemed that these reductions are achievable on the basis of further improvements in productivity, based on the gains the sector has achieved in the past. While it is true the sector has achieved a lot, there are limits to what the sector can continue to achieve.”
B+LNZ is seeking changes to the final advice delivered by the Commission to Government, based on these concerns and other key areas of disagreement.
“The lack of analysis of the socio-economic and distributional impacts of the Commission’s proposals, in particular the impacts of land-use changes on rural communities, is a concern,” says Mr McIvor.
“We do not believe the Commission has adequately addressed their obligations under the Zero Carbon Act in this regard.
“A key aim of the Paris Agreement is to increase the ability to adapt to the adverse impacts of climate change and foster climate resilience and low greenhouse gas emissions development in a manner that does not threaten food production.
“However, this is not reflected in the guiding principles used by the Commission nor in determining the level of the proposed budgets for the primary sector. It is critical this key consideration in the main international agreement on climate change flows through into the way New Zealand develops its domestic pathways in responding to climate change.”
B+LNZ is also disappointed at the lack of recognition of the marginal impact New Zealand’s methane-emitting sectors have had on the atmosphere for the past 20 years.
“Our methane-emitting sectors overall have contributed little additional warming since the early 2000s. In particular, methane emissions from sheep and beef cattle have decreased by 30 percent since 1990.
“In addition, a significant amount of carbon sequestration is happening on pastoral farmland, including land used for dairying. Farmers must be recognised for their positive impact on the climate brought about by the combination of decreased methane emissions and carbon sequestration.
“Methane-emitting sectors are currently being asked by the Commission to continue to do more, and faster, in the short-term to compensate for other sectors to come up to the play and that is inequitable.
“The Commission does not appropriately take into account the warming impact of methane in its analysis. The Commission must engage with a broader pool of experts and correct factual errors on greenhouse gas metrics, in particular GWP*, before it finalises its advice.”
However, there are significant areas of the Commission’s draft advice that B+LNZ agrees with.
“B+LNZ backs the recognition of the important role of indigenous vegetation that is integrated within productive farming systems. In addition to receiving recognition for sequestration, farmers should be recognised for the broader environmental benefits their on-farm vegetation provides. Our landscapes must be biodiverse and resilient to the impacts of climate change.
“We endorse the Commission’s recommendations the Government’s environmental policy development must be more integrated across all environmental domains, and in particular freshwater, biodiversity, soils and climate change.”
The Commission’s endorsement of the ‘split-gas’ approach taken by New Zealand to treat short-lived and long-lived greenhouse gases domestically to appropriately reflect the fact that different gases have different warming impacts on the atmosphere is pleasing, says Mr McIvor.
“We also agree that the Government must develop a long-term, sustained, research and development plan to deliver on future technologies and help different sectors adapt to a changing climate and policy environment.
“We want New Zealand to focus on investing in local science-based mitigations, in particular in the agricultural sector, rather than purchasing emissions reductions offshore.
“We look forward to continuing to work with the Commission on these issues.”
You can read B+LNZ’s submission here (PDF, 723KB).
For media enquiries, please contact B+LNZ’s Senior Communications Advisor Katie Jans on 027 838 6353.