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How biochar fits into the NZ Climate Change Response Bill

The first reading of the Climate Change Response Amendment Bill is now in the NZ Parliament after it was introduced on May 8, 2019. It was previously called the Zero Carbon Bill but was amended so that it all falls under the 2002 Act.

Environment Minister James Shaw says, "This Bill locks New Zealand's targets for cutting greenhouse gas emissions into primary legislation for the first time......The long-term target for reducing New Zealand’s greenhouse gas emissions is based on scientific advice that it meets the requirement to keep within 1.5 degrees of global warming."

Shaw also says, "Economic modelling shows that it will be challenging to make deep cuts to our greenhouse gas emissions by 2050" but a case study feeding biochar to cows indicated that it improved soil fertility, farm productivity and increased profit for the farmer. Joseph et al

The emissions reduction target within the bill is designed to " (i) reduce all greenhouse gases (except biogenic methane) to net zero by 2050 and (ii) reduce emissions of biogenic methane within the range of 24–47 percent below 2017 levels by 2050, including to 10 percent below 2017 levels by 2030.

Almost half of New Zealand's greenhouse gases comes from methane in animal agriculture and nitrous oxide in soil. Biochar used as an animal feed has been anecdotally shown by early adopters to reduce burping and increase meat production in cows and "the only reported study of direct measurements in live cattle, showed significant reductions in methane emissions." Herbertson 2018

California is also investigating the matter through a multimillion-dollar grant from the California Strategic Growth Council’s competitive Climate Change Research Program, University of California-Merced (UC-Merced) will look to subdue methane emissions from dairy cattle manure. Researchers from California - Merced say other studies that help secure the grant has shown that the addition of biochar to manure composting reduces methane emissions between 27% and 32%. California like New Zealand is ideally placed for biochar production because they have a lot of excess biomass from agriculture or forestry operations.

A number of commercial scale, low emissions technologies are available on the worldwide market that generate bioenergy and standardised biochar from low value wastestreams into high value bio-products. In a climate emergency and a solution at hand, cutting methane for farmers would come at a profit by using biochar as an animal feed and that's the quickest way to mobilise them.

Two biochar workshops and an online webinar entitled, "Biochar for Beef, Dairy & Avocado Health & Productivity" will be delivered in Whenaupai on June 19 & 20 with a recording thereafter by ANZ Biochar Initiaitve & Biochar Network of NZ. To purchase a ticket visit https://www.anzbi.org/product/nz-biochar-workshops/

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