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NZ dragging the chain on climate change

15 December 2008

NZ dragging the chain on climate change

New Zealand could be a world leader on finding ways to feed the world without changing the climate, instead of dragging the chain as we have done at the Poznan climate negotiations, the Green Party says.

Associate Climate Change Minister Tim Groser doesn't seem to understand that the purpose of the Kyoto protocol is to change the way we do business to reduce emissions, not to make farming and industry pay money. If it becomes just an extra cost to business as usual, the treaty will have failed, Co-Leader Jeanette Fitzsimons says.

"Instead of arguing that agriculture is a special case, countries like New Zealand, which rely heavily on agriculture, should be looking for different ways of farming.

"It is essential to maintain food production, and Groser is right that developing countries will not accept climate change commitments if it means their people will starve - but that is not the alternative.

"It is possible to feed the world and reduce climate changing emissions by feeding less grain to animals and more to people; by producing more poultry and pigs and less beef and dairy; by reducing stocking intensity and the use of nitrogen fertilisers; by managing wet soil conditions in a healthier way; and by developing new grasses and other cattle feeds which produce less methane.

"Surely there are enough ways forward here to have a real effect by 2013 when the next climate agreement should come into force?

"Currently most of the grain produced is fed to animals, creating both a shortage of grain for people, and high methane and nitrous oxide emissions from the animals. The world also needs protein, and increasingly demands animal protein, but here too there are options. Providing animal protein from poultry and pigs has much lower emissions as they are not ruminants.

"Even dairy products and beef/sheep meat do not have to produce such high emissions. Less intensive dairying without nitrogen fertilisers, and better soil management in wet conditions can greatly reduce nitrous oxide emissions. Sheep farmers with less productive back country can profitably plant some of it in either permanent forest sinks or production forestry. Research is underway, and needs more funding, to find alternative feeds, such as high sugar grasses, for cattle to reduce emissions and increase productivity.

"Instead of denying reality, which is that our agricultural emissions change climate just as much as our use of fossil fuels, it is time to focus on ways of feeding the world without changing the climate," she says.


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