Budget 2018: Greenpeace asks why Govt is to spend $800m subsidising agricultural pollution
In response to today’s Budget 2018 announcement, Greenpeace Executive Director Dr Russel Norman said:
"This Coalition Government has made a number of good decisions for the environment recently but it is set to continue to spend over $800 million a year subsidising greenhouse gas pollution from the agriculture sector by not bringing agriculture into the Emissions Trading Scheme.
"That’s $800m a year that could be spent on providing critical public services for New Zealanders; not to mention cleaning up our environment and accelerating the transition to a clean, low-carbon economy.
"Despite acknowledging the urgent need for action on environmental issues, the Government’s spending does not match this urgent need. In fact the biggest spend on climate in this Budget is to subsidise agricultural emissions to the tune of $800m a year."
Dr Norman welcomed the Government’s decision to invest in improving essential services like education, health and housing. He also acknowledged the funding boost to conservation, sustainable transport, home insulation, sustainable farming and the establishment of the Green Investment Fund, but points out how much more ambitious these initiatives could be with an extra $800m per year.
Agriculture is currently exempt from the Emissions Trading Scheme, which requires other polluting industries to pay for the greenhouse gas emissions that are driving climate change.
"The agriculture industry is responsible for half of this country’s emissions. But agribusiness still doesn’t pay a cent for its climate pollution. Instead, taxpayers are being forced to pick up the tab.
"As we’ve seen with the Government’s recent decision to stop spending public money on irrigation, positive environmental decisions free up real money that can instead be spent on improving the lives of New Zealanders."
Earlier this year, Finance Minister Grant Robertson decided to end taxpayer support for large irrigation projects that would have encouraged dairy expansion, further polluting New Zealand’s lakes and rivers. Estimates suggest that cutting irrigation funding has provided a welcome boost of around $50m to the Government’s coffers.
Norman also drew attention to the 2016 removal of the two-for-one subsidy on emissions units, which former Climate Change Minister, Paula Bennett estimated would positively impact the operating balance by $356m over four years.
"This Government has set an intention to clean up our environment and transition to a low-carbon economy. But that’s not going to happen until we stop incentivising industry to keep polluting.
"We have the opportunity to become a truly clean, green producer of agricultural products - a unique selling point that’s going to become even more important as synthetic milk and meat start to have an impact on the market."
Norman suggested that some of the $800m recouped from bringing agriculture into the ETS could be used to support New Zealand farms to transition to regenerative farming.
Regenerative agriculture does away with costly and environmentally-damaging inputs, replacing them with diversification and innovative techniques that have been shown to rebuild healthy soil, reduce pollution, sequester carbon and protect biodiversity.