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Delaying Climate Action On Agriculture No Longer An Option - Greenpeace

Aug 9, 2021

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has today released a report summarising the latest scientific understanding of the climate crisis, giving a stark warning of where we are headed if urgent action isn’t taken.

Greenpeace Aotearoa senior campaigner Christine Rose says the report is a call-to-action for the Government, who must act swiftly to cut emissions from New Zealand’s biggest climate polluter, agriculture.

Agriculture currently makes up half of New Zealand’s climate pollution, with the majority of that coming from intensive dairying.

"Everyone deserves to live free of the fear of wildfires, floods and droughts. The climate crisis is right now claiming whole communities with these extreme weather events. The IPCC has again confirmed that without urgent action, this situation is set to get worse," says Rose.

"Here in New Zealand, intensive dairying is wreaking havoc with water, human health and the climate. The Government must act now to cut climate pollution from intensive dairying by phasing out synthetic nitrogen fertiliser, lowering cow stocking rates and supporting farmers to shift to regenerative organic farming."

The IPCC report echoes a United Nations report released earlier this year, which stated that cutting methane from livestock is essential to tackling the climate crisis.

"Methane is an extremely potent greenhouse gas, with a global heating power 80 times greater than carbon dioxide over 20 years. By acting quickly on methane now, we can give ourselves some breathing room to continue work to cut carbon emissions," says Rose.

"New Zealand’s methane emissions have been trending upward for the past few decades, largely thanks to the increase in dairy cow numbers. Cutting methane domestically means lowering cow stocking rates.

"We’ve had decades of lax regulation on our most polluting industry - agriculture. Farmers will be hit fast and hit hard by the climate crisis. We need clear Government leadership to transform our agricultural industry away from intensive dairying towards diverse, regenerative and organic farming."

The scientific consensus presented in the report adds pressure on the discussions on how to accelerate countries’ action in line with the Paris Agreement 1.5°C warming limit - with new and revised 2030 commitments expected from leaders at the UN climate conference (COP26) in Glasgow, Scotland in November 2021.

Rose says the New Zealand Government should take COP26 as an opportunity to redeem itself on the world stage.

"We know Ardern’s government has been criticised for its unambitious climate policy - despite Ardern herself saying the climate crisis is ‘her generation’s nuclear-free moment’. If New Zealand is to retain the ‘clean, green’ image that so much of our export market is built on, the Government must cut climate pollution from intensive dairying and catalyse a shift to regenerative organic farming," says Rose.

"We can have a thriving countryside with plenty of jobs and strong communities, as well as abundant nature and clean water. Forward-thinking regenerative organic farmers are already restoring nature while they grow good food and earning a premium for their products too."

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