Report Shows Reducing Actual Farming Emissions Vital
Evidence shows that relying on offsets to reduce agriculture’s impact on the climate will not work, the Green Party says.
“We cannot plant our way out of the climate crisis. The only option is to support farmers to change on-farm practices, including reducing animal numbers,” says the Green Party’s environment and forestry spokesperson, Eugenie Sage said.
The new report from the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment (PCE) shows it would take 6,000 square metres of pine forest to offset the methane emissions from a single dairy cow and 4,000 square metres of pine forest to offset the emissions from a single beef animal. That’s the equivalent of a rugby field of pine trees for just two animals.
“The Green Party has been saying for years that we need to change the way we farm to reduce emissions – and this report shows exactly why.
“Forestry offsets will have a role to play in our transition to a low emissions future, but no realistic amount of trees can deliver the cuts we need from agriculture for both methane and nitrous oxide emissions.
“The Green Party urges the Government to rapidly phase down synthetic nitrogen fertiliser and imported supplementary feeds like Palm Kernel Expeller (PKE), which provides cheap feed for intensive high-emission farming in Aotearoa, especially in the dairy sector,” says Eugenie Sage.
The Green Party’s agriculture and rural communities spokesperson, Teanau Tuiono added:
“The PCE’s analysis brings into sharp focus the decisions currently facing farmers and the Government. Relying on forest offsets won’t work for farmers, rural communities, our climate, or our economy.
“The Greens welcome recent Government reports on the potential for regenerative agriculture to contribute to our response to the climate crisis and the funding in Budget 2022 to provide guidance for farmers.
“However, endless reports are of little comfort to the future generations who must live with the consequences of our decisions.
“It is time to step up, learn from the reports and science and boost the support available to farmers to take up regenerative techniques on their farms and reduce herd sizes. This can be done while increasing profitability.
“Regenerative farming practices enhance water and soil quality, enable food production at levels that don’t push agriculture beyond the limits of our ecosystems and safeguard the climate,” says Teanau Tuiono.
The PCE’s analysis for the report, “How much forestry would be needed to offset warming from agricultural methane?” estimates that 0.6 hectares of new pine plantation forest would be needed to offset each and every dairy cow. For beef cattle it is 0.4 hectares, for deer 0.2 hectares, and for sheep 0.08 hectares. In 2019 there were 6.26 million dairy cattle, 3.89 million beef cattle, 26.8 million sheep and 810,000 deer being farmed in NZ.