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Cutting Red Tape Will Help Farmers In The Emissions Reduction Race

New Zealand’s farmers are already well into the emissions reduction journey. Science, innovation and unblocking regulatory bottlenecks by government is needed to hasten progress, Federated Farmers President and climate change spokesperson Andrew Hoggard says.

"The latest IPCC report has been described as code red for humanity, and we need to take that seriously. But for us it’s not just about cows, and it’s not just about New Zealand.

"One reporter asked me ‘when are farmers going to start taking action?’. For a 400m Olympics analogy, we’re leading around the back straight with other nations in our wake. Our emissions per kilogram of meat and milk produced are world leading and New Zealand farmers are committed to further improving on this lead."

There is no win for global emissions if New Zealand’s highly efficient farmers cut back production and it is replaced by less efficient farmers offshore, Andrew said.

"That’s not to say our farmers have finished the race. There is more we can - and will - do to protect the planet and keep our sector at the front of the pack."

If enabled by the government, science and innovation has the potential to boost on-farm performance while also cutting emissions. Breeding advances, a cutting edge Kiwi-developed GMO ryegrass, the nitrification inhibitor DCD and livestock methane inhibitors such as 3-NOP are just some of the options available or showing great promise. But several of them have run into regulatory roadblocks that the government needs to deal with.

"Methane is a short-lived greenhouse gas that needs to be slightly reduced, and Nitrous oxide is a long-lived and potent greenhouse gas that we need to reduce to net-zero by 2050, but the few tools available to reduce these GHGs are being held up by regulatory constraints.

"Feds sent a submission to the government on environmental inhibitors some 18 months ago. We’ve heard next to nothing on their consideration of this."

The Government was quick to declare a climate emergency. So the lack of urgency on improving the agricultural GHG regulatory framework is surprising.

Andrew said it was pleasing to note the IPCC gives recognition to an area of science that Feds has been advancing for several years: the current standard metric for measuring the global warming impact of methane is flawed. The reductions in livestock methane required to ensure no additional warming impact are in the order of 0.3% per annum, much lower than the net zero figure for long lived GHGs, and much lower than the targets the government has set.

"The report makes it clear that NZ was right to show global leadership when adopting split long and short-lived GHG targets. We need to follow this up and adjust the current methane reduction targets to ones which are zero carbon equivalent. We also need to split out emissions budgets to make sure climate policy treats short- and long-lived emissions differently in a manner consistent with the split gas targets.

As is also clear from the report, the science on stable methane emissions is settled. It is simply misleading to portray agriculture to be almost half of NZ’s warming given that 80% of agricultural emissions are short-lived biogenic methane. Biogenic methane only needs to slightly reduce to be zero carbon equivalent, and that has been the case in New Zealand for well over a decade.

"It’s unfair, scientifically flawed and economically illogical, to call on our farmers to make drastic methane cuts to buy time for carbon dioxide reductions to happen.

"Efficiently produced New Zealand food will play a role in feeding a growing global population, but the ongoing challenge is how we can reduce our environmental impact even further, while powering the New Zealand economy."

New Zealand farmers have invested tens of millions dollars in research since 2003, recognising the tremendous potential a breakthrough technology represents for farmers, their animals, consumers and the environment. We now need the Government to enable this innovation, Andrew said.

"I’ll say it again - farmers are not off the hook. With ongoing research, and new tools unleashed when regulatory hurdles are cleared, we can make further cuts and achieve a goal of becoming warming neutral by 2050. Can other sectors of our society say the same?"

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