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Agricultural sector must be held accountable

Agricultural sector must be held accountable for climate and health harm

Health professionals have expressed concern about a newly-released report by New Zealand’s Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment examining how to deal with greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture. While the report contains some useful ideas, they say, it fails to hold the agricultural sector accountable for its harm to both the environment and human health.

In considering the merits of potential policy options, the report proposes leaving biological emissions out of the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) and instead taking a ‘landscape approach’ to managing climate and environmental issues. It effectively undermines the case for the agricultural sector to immediately face a price on biological emissions under the ETS.

“This is a significant issue for New Zealand, with just under half of our total greenhouse gas emissions stemming from agriculture,” says Dr Rhys Jones, Co-convenor of OraTaiao: The NZ Climate and Health Council. “Our current high-emissions, high-intensity farming practices are also increasing the risk of disease outbreaks from dirty drinking water, like the one we saw in Havelock North, as well as harming our biodiversity.”

“The report’s recommendations are particularly concerning in light of the recent EAT-Lancet Commission that outlined how to achieve healthy and sustainable eating patterns globally. Its ‘planetary health diet’ requires a significant reduction in animal-based foods (e.g. meat and dairy) and a corresponding increase in consumption of whole plant-based foods.”

“Such a diet would have significant benefits for New Zealanders’ health, including reduced heart disease, obesity and cancer. The associated transformation of our food systems would also dramatically improve freshwater and drinking water quality.”

“In this context it is critical that our Emissions Trading Scheme is inclusive of greenhouse gases derived from animal agriculture.”

“Healthy and sustainable diets are a win-win for people and the planet. New Zealand’s climate policy must seek to transform existing food systems, including the agricultural industry, that pose a significant threat to our health and our environment,” says Dr Jones.


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