Friday, December 1, 2023

Eye in the sky to see farm gases

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The Government is investing $26 million in a satellite that measures human-induced methane but intends using it to collect data to help reduce agricultural greenhouse gas emissions.
The New Zealand Meat Board has been funding innovation, market development and support for 100 years, says CEO Sam McIvor.
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The MethaneSAT satellite is designed to find and measure methane from human sources worldwide with the data used to track and help to reduce those emissions.

Research, Science and Innovation Minister Megan Woods says the satellite will be launched in 2022 in conjunction with the non-profit US-based Environmental Defense Fund.

The control centre will be somewhere in New Zealand.

“This is an ambitious science partnership between NZ and the EDF that will see NZ at the forefront of developing and applying world-leading technology to the global challenge of managing greenhouse gas emissions,” Woods says.

The EDF’s priority is to collect emissions data from the oil and gas industry but Wood says NZ wants to collect agricultural data.

The announcement came as Parliament debates the Zero Carbon Bill, which aims for NZ to be carbon neutral by 2050.

It proposes methane reduction targets for agriculture of 10% below 2017 levels by 2030 and a 24% to 47% reduction by 2050.

The wider primary sector narrowly staved off Government regulation by committing to developing and implementing tools and techniques to measure and reduce emissions.

DairyNZ chief executive Tim Mackle says while supporting key aspects of the Zero Carbon Bill, he describes it as a mixed bag for farmers.

“We support the key architecture in the Bill.

“This includes the establishment of an Independent Climate Change Commission, carbon budgeting and, in particular, a split-gas approach that recognises methane is different to other greenhouse gasses.”

The key point of contention remains the longer-term methane reduction target of a 24% to 47% reduction by 2050.

“Farmers, officials and politicians have sought a science-based target for methane but the sheer breadth of differing scientific opinion and politics has ultimately made this a difficult exercise for all involved,” he says.

Mackle wants a review of the 2050 target by the commission as early as 2021, in time for setting the first emissions budgets.

He urges a bi-partisan approach to the Bill, a view shared by Beef + Lamb chief executive Sam McIvor who also supports the commission, clear emissions budgets and a split-gas approach that recognises the short-lived nature of biogenic methane.

McIvor similarly opposes the 2050 methane reduction target, saying it is higher than the Government’s own science and policy advice.

He also wants an early review of that target.

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