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Foresters Unfairly Take Heat For Farmers’ Inaction On Climate Change. Can Māori And Fair-trade Agreement Unlock This?

Farmers’ lobbies must be patting themselves on the back. Not only do they appear to have put off meaningful climate change action affecting farmers (which will be put off even more if National/Act become the government), but they have managed to furtively pass the blame onto foresters. It is a neat trick.

If farmers had to account for their GHG emissions in the NZ ETS there would never be enough forestry NZUs to cover them. Not accounting in the NZ ETS for agricultural emissions is a disguised subsidy to farmers with forestry being attacked as a consequence.

If farmers had to account for even part of their methane emissions, we would never be having the current Review of the NZ ETS, or at least not in any recognisable form.

Shaw and his officials would never be having to explain why there will be too many NZUs in the future knowing he has effectively stopped planting by even suggesting effective nationalisation of forestry returns. Nor would he have to justify his unreliable (and flawed) theories of future investments and market behaviour by recourse to dodgy assumptions (an earlier press release explained the mistakes in the Review when comparing diagrams 3, 4 and 5: Scoop/12 July).

Yes, farmers are responsible for $39b of export earnings a year and forestry only $6.58b. But forestry is all in the NZ ETS and agriculture all out. Why isn’t at least $6.58b of agriculture also in the NZ ETS? Good question.

To understand the context further, agricultural emissions are counted towards our NDC totals which we will never meet if forestry is not encouraged. This means that by discouraging forestry, as options 3 and 4 of the Review do, New Zealanders are being asked to pay twice.

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First, they pay (or at least their children do) for the increased costs of climate change, and pay they will, by not curtailing methane by putting it in the NZ ETS. As already noted, not doing so is subsidising farmers. Remember when the Lange Labour government had the courage to remove all Muldoon’s subsides for farmers? The roof did not fall in.

Hope that scientific discoveries will bring down agricultural emissions is no excuse to curtail forestry planting nor omit to take steps to protect our children if they do not eventuate. Our children need action, not hopes.

Second, New Zealanders, or at least their children, are paying for Shaw’s own goal in stopping forestry planting in its tracks by the ill-advised Review. To put this in context, as explained in an earlier press release (Scoop/17 July), leaving a years’ planting of trees out of our NDC, which will never be made up, could cost $9.6b between now and 2050, while agriculture is a sunset industry with fewer people eating meat and bio alternatives to milk become available. More food for thought.

But before farmers congratulate themselves too much, they had better first read the fine print in the recently concluded NZ/EU free trade agreement, because despite the spin the government wants to put on it, the FTA is as much a climate change treaty as a free trade one, and one suspects there will be more like it.

Art 19.6 of the FTA provides each party shall effectively implement the UNFCCC and Paris Agreement including refraining from any act or omission that materially defeats the object and purpose of the Paris Agreement. This requires the promotion of emissions trading as an effective policy tool for reducing greenhouse emissions efficiently.

Art 2 of the Paris Agreement provides in part “This Agreement … aims to strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change, in the context of sustainable development and efforts to eradicate poverty, including by: (a) Holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2 °C above pre-industrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels, recognizing that this would significantly reduce the risks and impacts of climate change.”

Art 4 requires developed countries (NZ is one) to publish NDC’s every 5 years. These should reduce every period. … “In accounting for anthropogenic emissions and removals corresponding to their nationally determined contributions, Parties shall promote environmental integrity, transparency, accuracy, completeness, comparability and consistency, and ensure the avoidance of double counting, in accordance with guidance adopted by the Conference.”

Stop right there. In complying with the EU/NZ FTA is New Zealand promoting emissions trading as an effective policy for reducing greenhouse gases when it leaves 50% of its emissions out of the NZ ETS (agriculture)? And when it wants to take forestry out of the NZ ETS causing the NZU price to tank and future plantings to drop dramatically, based on contrived and dodgy suppositions?

This is not a debate which will need to be determined because the NZ/EU FTA provides that if the relevant EU Minister believes doing either of these things is a breach of the treaty, and the NZ counterparty Minister can’t be convinced that it is, the EU can terminate the FTA there and then. Oops.

Art 27.4 of the FTA also provides that an act or omission that materially defeats the object and purpose of the Paris Agreement will invoke “appropriate measures” as defined in a procedure set out in Art 54 of the EU/NZ Partnership Agreement [2016]. Those “appropriate measures” are the ones that effectively give the EU the unilateral ability to terminate the FTA for failures to have an effective NZ ETS.

In addition, the Art 27.4 procedure applies if there is a serious and substantial violation of relevant international human rights instruments which would include the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Depriving Māori of $16b of forestry returns by options 3 or 4 of the Review would almost certainly be caught even without considering the effects of climate change on Māori of not planting as many trees as they want to.

There is also an argument that exacerbating climate change by denying Māori the right to economically plant trees, the Convention on the rights of Children is seriously and substantially violated because Māori children are being denied their declared rights to have their best interests considered as a ‘primary consideration’ and they are being denied their right to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health.

Doubtless any of these can be seen as potential breaches of the Treaty of Waitangi as well.

It is somewhat ironic that farmers who are so transfixed on not being brought into the NZ ETS are ignoring the fact that in not doing so they likely will lose market access, as the EU/NZ FTA so clearly shows. Not that having a treaty is necessary to cause this. An easy prediction is it will not be long before most importing countries will want to see effective climate responses from farmers (not pie in the sky hopes) as a condition of entry.

Politicians presently see farmers as untouchable, hence putting what should be farmers’ obligations onto foresters. What goes around comes around.

Halt NZU Grab

Campaign Co-convenors: H. Bradbury and S.Thomson

© Scoop Media

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