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National says no place for agriculture in ETS at the moment

National says no place for agriculture in ETS at the moment

First published in Energy and Environment on June 20, 2019.

National’s primary sector policy discussion document again indicates the party will not support the inclusion of agriculture into the Emissions Trading Scheme until “there are practical technologies available for farmers to reduce emissions”.

While much of the discussion document is phrased in the way of policy questions, it shows strong resistance to including animal emissions in the ETS and the Government’s proposed target for methane reductions.

The party says it is proud to have signed up to the Paris Agreement, which “requires us to restructure our domestic economy to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions by the second half of the century without threatening food production. We stand by that ambition”.

It said change must be guided by targets based on the best available science that assesses the three key greenhouse gases and their impacts independently.

Emissions reductions should be achieved by adopting new technologies rather than reducing sector activity, in pace with global trading partners and not placing undue burden on single regions.

“We need to be open to the positive contribution biotechnology can make to reduce agriculture admissions. We favour sector wide farm management plans. We need to deliver on the changes to Overseer to improve its accuracy and use as a mitigation tool.”

Decisions on inclusion in the ETS should be made after emissions reducing technologies have been shown to be practical and affordable.

“We are broadly comfortable with the (Climate Change) Commission’s design and the adoption of a split gas approach but have serious concerns with the proposed methane target of 24-47% reduction by 2050. This target is not in keeping with the scientific advice that had been provided by the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, who suggested a 10-22% reduction by 2050 to avoid additional warming from methane. The Government has said that scientific advice on this is unclear. In our view it is exactly the sort of decision the newly formed scientific Climate Commission should provide advice on, rather than politicians cherry picking numbers.”

The paper cites the need to change biotechnology and genetic modification laws which they say have been overtaken by technology.

National said it was committed to reforming the RMA.

“In many areas the RMA has become too unpredictable and inefficient. Large infrastructure projects can be bogged down in RMA processes for years and Environment Court decisions can be full of surprises. Farmers are having to spend large sums on consultants for resource applications to farm or irrigate. There will always be debate on the appropriate balance between the environment and development. National will amend the RMA with a focus on making it more predictable and efficient. Farmers deserve clear rules on the environment and should be able to focus on improving farm performance, not lengthy resource management applications.”

National also proposes establishing a new Water Infrastructure Fund to assist city and rural councils to improve water quality, supporting more sustainable agriculture and resilience to climate change.

It also expressed ongoing concern about the One Billion Tree Programme and its impact on rural communities. “The arbitrary target is overriding best land use resulting in trees being planted in the wrong place. Government needs to be cautious of subsidising forest plantings and skewing the overseas investment rules against pastoral farming… The mismanagement and poor execution of the Government’s One Billion Tree Programme is a significant long term financial and environmental risk for regional New Zealand.”

Speaking in Parliament this week, National’s agriculture spokesman Nathan Guy said the sector was wracked by uncertainty over policy issues including climate change and water quality.

He also claimed ministers were backing a coming aggressive campaign on farm practices.

“The Government are supporting Fish & Game and Forest & Bird out there to run a campaign, which they're going to launch very, very shortly, against winter grazing in NZ… This is going to be an orchestrated campaign that's going to line up with David Parker when he comes out and announces very strict water-quality standards”.

First published in Energy and Environment on June 20, 2019.

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