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The Nation: Greenpeace CEO Russel Norman

On Newshub Nation: Simon Shepherd Interviews Greenpeace CEO Russel Norman

Greenpeace has labelled the Government’s emissions plan for farmers ‘a major sellout’.

The Government announced this week that farmers and growers will be able to calculate their emissions and offsets at the farm gate by 2025, instead of joining the ETS.

The Government called the partnership a ‘world-first’.

Simon Shepherd interviewed Greenpeace New Zealand CEO Russel Norman.

Shepherd: Russel, no other country has a plan to make agriculture pay for its emissions, so it is a world first.

Norman: There is no plan to make agriculture pay for its emissions. If you’re saying we’re going to make them pay in five years’ time, after two elections, what you’re saying is you’ve got no plan to make agriculture pay because all the government controls is where we are now. They’ve made a decision not to put agriculture into the emissions trading scheme, even though it’s Labour Party policy, it’s Green Party policy, even though it was in the coalition agreement with New Zealand First, even though the interim climate change commission said you should put agriculture into the ETS next year. This government has now decided not to put agriculture into the ETS. It’s like Australians saying we’re going to do nothing about coal-fired power.

Right. Okay, but the government has always said that you need to bring people along with you on climate change, and so that’s what they’ve done with the farmers and the agriculture sector here. They’ve brought them along.

Yeah, so the agribusiness, the polluting industries, said, ‘we don’t want to have to face a price on our emissions.’ And the government blinked. It backed down. This is the government that has— This is their policy, right, to put a price on emissions. Every serious climate change policy you’ve ever read says a key part of it is putting a price on emissions to create a financial incentive to reduce emissions and a financial reward for those who do. We know we don’t have a price in our system of trying to cut emissions. There are no other policies either — just to be clear. This was what they were hanging everything on, and now they’ve abandoned this one as well.

So you don’t trust that farmers will think it’s in their best interests to come on board and do this in a timely fashion?

We’ve been doing this now for a decade or more, and we’ve been told there’s all these voluntary measures and so on. Well, emissions keep on going up and up and up. So, no, of course not. These are businesses, right? They respond to financial incentives, as they should, and that’s fine. I don’t have a problem with that. So let’s put the financial incentives in. Instead, it is a colossal back down by this government to roll on putting agriculture into the emissions trading scheme.

Farmers say they’re investing $25 million a year towards this. They’re putting some cash into the situation.

They may, and that’s perfectly fine and nice, but they’d put a lot more into it if they said, ‘Actually, there’s a price on emissions, so it’s in our financial emissions to cut our emissions.’ Instead, they’re going to go, ‘How should we invest our money — in PR and lobbying’, which has been pretty effective, you’d have to say, ‘Or should we invest it in actually cutting emissions.’ If we faced a price, you’d invest it in cutting emissions.

Okay. The agriculture minister was saying that having this agreement means that we’re going to get a premium for our agriculture products on the world stage, and it’s a leading export industry, so that’s a good strategy.

Look, I think that there’s truth that having food of provenance, low carbon, high environmental standards, et cetera, et cetera. In terms of where food is going to go, this kind of industrial food production New Zealand has been doing is a kind of dying part of the sector, right. That’s true. But you actually need to cut emissions out of the agricultural sector. There is— There is no policy, right? Just to be clear, right now there is no price signal, there is no policy, there’s nothing to cut emissions out of the agricultural sector.

So this is hot air, as far as— Well, just nothing?

Well, it’s actually nothing. This is the voluntary proposal that the industry brought to the table, instead of facing a price on emissions. The government has chosen the polluter’s policy, the voluntary policy, rather than putting a price on emissions as they promised the country they would do.

So they’ve broken their promises. You would have expected more from this coalition government?

They have broken all their promises on this issue. It’s just plain as plain. The interim climate change commission said you’ve got to put a price on emissions, the Labour Party said you’ve got to put a price on emissions, the Green Party, the coalition deal with New Zealand First — they all exactly the— It is a total back down. It is a sell-out of quite monumental proportions. This is the greatest issue facing us at the moment, and the government has just chosen to do nothing about the most polluting industry.

So what should they have done? Should they have just stuck to their policy?


Should they have just stuck to what the interim climate change commission said?

Of course. This is pretty straight forward, right. Like, we all know — everybody knows, right — this is why it was the Labour Party policy and Green Party policy and the interim climate and blah, blah, blah because everyone knows that this is what works. You need a price on emissions.

Yet the agricultural minister says he’s confident that this will lead to a methane reduction of 10% by 2030.

(LAUGHS) Obviously you can’t take that seriously.

Why not?

Because we’ve had voluntary agreements in the past, right. We’ve had a decade or more — or two decades — to do voluntary emissions reductions. We’ve had a big increase, right. You need financial incentives. When you’re dealing with businesses, businesses job is to make money — nothing wrong with that. Perfectly fine. They need price signals to incentivise reductions.

So what do you predict is going to happen by 2025?

Well, that’s in two electoral cycles. If I was the Feds, Fed Farmers, I’d go, ‘Well, I beat them back in 2019, I stared them down, and they backed down. I reckon I can do it again because it worked in 2019. I reckon it’ll work again.’ That’s what this is about. Fed Farmers, their strategy is perpetual delay. It has been very, very effective, and they have won again. That’s what this means, so we have to go back to the streets because this government has now failed on climate change. There is no option now because what other choice do people have when the government rolls and adopts the polluter’s plan?

So back to the streets?

The people have to mobilise because governments have proven they are not capable of dealing with this issue.

Russel Norman, Executive Director of Greenpeace, thanks very much for your time this morning.


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