Monday, April 22, 2024

Gas profiles on target

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The pastoral sector is doubling down on its efforts to measure and price its greenhouse gas (GHG) emission as an alternative to becoming captured under the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS).
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The pastoral sector is doubling down on its efforts to measure and price its greenhouse gas (GHG) emission as an alternative to becoming captured under the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS).

He Waka Eke Noa, the primary sector’s climate action partnership is working to implement a pricing and allocation scheme specifically for the primary sector’s emissions that keep it separate from the ETS.

One requirement the Government placed upon the industry was that 25% of all farms must know their annual on-farm GHG emissions by the end of this year, and 100% by the end of 2022.

DairyNZ strategy and investment leader Bruce Thorrold says the dairy sector has calculated the GHG profiles of 91% of the country’s dairy farms, largely in part to the efforts of Fonterra in recording farmer suppliers’ emissions.

“We are now in the process of designing the elements of a pricing scheme, and will be required to go back to the Minister (James Shaw) with the specifics of that,” Thorrold said.

So far, the pastoral sector has approved six proprietary software programmes that are capable of calculating farm level emissions.

“While all are based on good science, all have slightly different numbers in their final calculations. Down the track when it comes to a pricing system, we will require a tool that gives just one value to set the price by,” he said.

A pilot of a farm-level emissions accounting and reporting system is due to be completed by January 1, 2024, under He Waka Eke Noa. Come January 1, 2025, all farms will be required to be using the system for reporting 2024 emissions.

DairyNZ has wound up a project that included several monitor farms around the country calculating and working to reduce their GHG footprint.

Thorrold says lessons learnt from that included the challenges in reducing gas losses further on more efficient farms, compared to less efficient.

“Those inefficiencies highlighted were around nitrogen application, the opportunity to reduce feed inputs and the amount of feed eaten. Where farms are already efficient, in the absence of technology, then it comes at a cost to the farm business,” he said.

Beef + Lamb NZ general manager for policy and advocacy David Harrison says the challenge facing sheep farmers in particular in reducing emissions was considerably greater, given the productivity gains the sector has made in the past 30 years.

“There is potentially more low hanging fruit for dairy and everyone has to do their bit. The overseas potential for feed additives that work for dairy are an opportunity we do not have,” Harrison said.

He is confident the drystock sector will be “bang on” with the 25% of farms having a GHG profile by the end of this year.

B+LNZ launched its GHG emissions calculator in July.

In developing a mechanism that prices farm GHG emissions, both Thorrold and Morrison agree it is a complex and groundbreaking area that will demand significant facetime with farmers to work through in coming months.

They also agree catchment groups may form a good basis from which farmers can work together in specific districts to sequester carbon.

The opportunity for farmers to offset their emissions by counting riparian strips, native plantings and covenanted areas for sequestering them is highly likely to be in any scheme, giving collective farmer effort more horsepower than individual farms.

“It could be that maybe a farm with surplus carbon sequestered could work with another farmer who needs to sequester more. The detail on offsetting really has yet to be finalised,” he said.

Harrison says it could be possible a farm group could combine pastoral farming with sequestered offset plantings and plantings that earn through the ETS.

He says any relationship between the ETS and He Waka Eke Noa was still “up in the air”.

Overall, farmer awareness of what He Waka Eke Noa was trying to achieve is running at 85%.

Thorrold was closely involved in helping establish a nitrogen cap and trade mechanism for Lake Taupō in the mid-2000s and says he drew a lot of encouragement and perseverance from that experience.

“When there is determination there to solve a problem, we can do it,” Thorrold said.

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