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Greenpeace: Agriculture Still Tops Emissions, So Where's The Action?

The latest inventory of New Zealand's climate pollution shows, yet again, that the Government must take urgent action to make farming part of the climate solution, says Greenpeace.

The Ministry for the Environment today released its 2019 inventory of greenhouse gas emissions. Climate pollution is on the rise and agriculture is still New Zealand’s biggest climate polluter, contributing 48% of NZ’s emissions.

Greenpeace senior campaigner Steve Abel says the report comes as no surprise, when we’ve known for years that industrial dairying is driving agricultural emissions.

"We know that the rampant overstocking of cows leads to methane and nitrous oxide emissions from cow digestion and urine, and from the half million tonnes of synthetic nitrogen fertiliser applied to the land every year," says Abel.

"These greenhouse gases are no joke. Nitrous oxide is 300 times more potent than carbon dioxide in terms of climate heating, and methane has a global heating force that is 85 times greater than carbon dioxide over 20 years."

An international study has shown that even if the world stopped burning all fossil fuels tomorrow, we would still overshoot the 1.5 degree global heating target that New Zealand has signed onto as part of the Paris Climate Agreement - thanks to the way we’re growing food. (1)

"As the climate heats up, it's set to cause more frequent and intense floods, fires and droughts. We know farmers are already fearing the effects of the climate crisis," says Abel.

"Jacinda Ardern called the climate crisis her generation’s ‘nuclear free moment’, and vowed to take action. The Ardern Government has declared a climate emergency, but we’re still waiting for meaningful action on NZ’s biggest climate polluter - industrial agriculture.

"This is an opportunity for Aotearoa to lead the world in climate-friendly farming. New Zealand is already doing some things right, and there are hundreds of regenerative and organic farmers across the country farming in ways that work with nature, not against it."

Greenpeace is calling on the Government to take a multi-pronged approach to tackling agricultural climate pollution by phasing out synthetic nitrogen fertiliser and imported feed, such as palm kernel expeller, and supporting farmers to shift to regenerative organic farming.

"New Zealand’s farmers are a capable bunch who overwhelmingly want to do right by their animals, communities, rivers and the planet. The Government must make it easier for willing farmers to shift their farms to being part of the climate solution," says Abel.

"We can have a thriving countryside with a lot fewer cows grazing alongside other animals, crops and trees, on soil rich and alive with beneficial bugs and bacteria, and with clean rivers running through farms. We can have a country where our farming system is part of the climate solution."


(1) https://science.sciencemag.org/content/370/6517/705

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