Sheep and beef farmers are fulfilling their climate change obligations but the government’s confusing response is creating frustration and uncertainty, Beef + Lamb New Zealand says.
Chief executive Sam McIvor said 95% of commercial sheep and beef farmers are calculating their emissions through various calculators, an indication they are taking their response to climate change seriously.
“It also shows they are willing to engage when there’s something tangible for them to engage with, such as tools like the BLNZ greenhouse gas calculator and other calculators.”
McIvor said that is why it’s critical that the government slows down and takes the time to stand up what he called “practical, workable systems that support farmers to do the right thing”.
He said farmers need more certainty on how emissions will be priced from 2025. They need the government to establish a credible, robust, centralised measurement system that can be trusted.
Other outstanding issues include appropriate recognition of on-farm sequestration, questions of governance, and lack of clarity around the ability of farmers to create collectives.
“Farmers shouldn’t be expected to pay when these issues are outstanding as they are key to ensuring a system that is fair and equitable,” McIvor said.
The Climate Change Commission’s (CCC) most recent advice to the government called for greater urgency in implementing climate change policies, while also recognising that offsetting emissions through forestry sequestration is not sustainable.
There is also speculation that the complexity and cost of the He Waka Eke Noa (HWEN) system for pricing agricultural emissions means legislation could be delayed until after October’s general election.
It was revealed in Farmers Weekly last week that the legislation has not yet been considered by a cabinet committee, which acts as a forum to discuss and consider issues before being submitted to the cabinet.
If legislation is not passed in time, agriculture will by default be included in the emissions trading scheme (ETS).
McIvor said the government needs to ensure that does not happen.
“The government has acknowledged that agriculture shouldn’t be in the ETS, and our sector has done its part, so it’s up to the government now.
Commission chairman Rod Carr said its advice to the government was based on a range of diverse perspectives.
“In developing our advice to date we have engaged with farmers and rural professionals, including a small number of on-farm visits, to understand the challenges they have and the opportunities they are creating.”
Carr said they were told farmers want emissions mitigation options to be recognised and rewarded in a pricing system along with better support for making the transition.
There are two opportunities for people to have their say: public consultation on the commission’s draft advice for the government’s next emissions reduction plan and in a report on evidence on NZ’s emissions reduction targets and emissions budgets.
McIvor said his body will continue to advocate the use of GWP* instead of GWP to measure global-warming potential.
He said there is international science and commentary, including in the latest report of the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, to support the use of the GWP* metric as a better way to reflect methane’s warming impact.
“BLNZ has long argued that there’s nothing stopping them from reporting on both emissions and warming (using a more appropriate metric such as GWP*) and we will continue to advocate for this.”
McIvor was also supportive of CCC advice to make legislated changes to allow the quick release of new carbon- and methane-reducing technology.
“The availability of mitigation options is one of farmers’ key concerns around emissions pricing, which we argue must be resolved before pricing is introduced.”