Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Govt missed NDC target opportunity, sector says

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Primary sector groups are disappointed the Government did not use a split gas approach when it changed New Zealand’s Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) target that’s part of the global climate change response.
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Federated Farmers president Andrew Hoggard says the Government has missed an opportunity to show global leadership on the split gas approach to reducing emissions.

Primary sector groups are disappointed the Government did not use a split gas approach when it changed New Zealand’s Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) target that’s part of the global climate change response.

On the eve of the United Nations climate change conference in Glasgow, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Climate Change Minister James Shaw said NZ’s new NDC target was to halve net greenhouse gas emissions from 2005 levels – up from 30% – by 2030.

They said the increase was based on NZ doing its fair in the global effort to fight climate change and was in line with what’s needed to avoid the worst impacts of global warming, adding that earlier this year the Climate Change Commission told the Government that NZ’s NDC was not consistent with global efforts to limit global warming to 1.5degC above pre-industrial levels – a limit that is acknowledged as the best chance of managing the climate crisis.

Shaw says the current decade is make or break for the planet.

“To stand a chance of limiting global warming to 1.5degC, the science shows we now have about eight years left to almost halve global greenhouse gas emissions. That’s eight years for countries to make the necessary plans, put in place policies, implement them, and ultimately deliver the cuts,” Shaw said.

He says the new target brings NZ up to speed with other countries.

However, Federated Farmers president Andrew Hoggard says the Government had missed an opportunity to show leadership globally on the split gas approach to measuring the impact of different gases.

He says that approach, treating the impact of short-lived gases like methane on the environment differently to long-lived gases like carbon dioxide, should be what NZ should be talking about at the climate conference.

“Agriculture is the primary source of biogenic methane emissions but short-lived biogenic methane is not the same as long-lived carbon dioxide,” Hoggard said.

“It may account for 42% of New Zealand’s emissions if you use the blunt CO2 equivalent (GWP100) formulae, but it doesn’t account for anywhere near 42% of this country’s warming and the issue is, at the end of the day, warming.

“We are still not accounting for biogenic methane correctly and if we don’t, it will lead to massive structural change in our land use, in the wellbeing of rural communities and our economy, all for little to no gain in global atmospheric warming.”

He says if NZ and the rest of the world continue to treat biogenic methane as if it accumulates in the atmosphere in the same way as carbon dioxide, there is a real risk emissions budgets and targets will not reflect what is physically happening in the atmosphere.

DairyNZ chief executive Tim Mackle says although he was disappointed the Government did not announce a split gas approach for determining the new NDC, he hoped Shaw will strongly advocate for a split gas approach and metrics like GWP* at the Glasgow conference.

“We want to see New Zealand show real leadership on the world stage by strongly advocating for the scientifically-robust approach we have taken to methane,” Mackle said.

He says DairyNZ would like to see settings include an international agreement on split gas, because although methane does have an impact on short-term warming – and certainly shouldn’t increase – keeping global warming under 1.5degC is dependent on reducing long-lived gases.

“Reducing CO2 determines the overall level of warming and the speed,” he said.

He says Kiwi dairy farmers are up for continuing to manage emissions and improve their efficiency, and on-farm work is under way nationwide. 

“But farmers can’t be singled out as the only sector that needs to take action. New Zealanders shouldn’t feel our agriculture sector is not pulling its weight on the world stage,” he said.

“We want to see other nations also legislating specific methane targets and follow New Zealand’s lead.” 

Mackle says NZ’s split gas approach is backed up by a world-first climate action partnership – He Waka Eke Noa – to reduce agricultural emissions, comprising the primary sector, Government and Māori.

National Party climate change spokesperson Stuart Smith says to put the reduction of 50% of emissions in nine years in perspective, it requires NZ to reduce emissions by about 6% a year, every year, from now until 2030.

“What advice has the Government received on the ability for agriculture to meet such a target without large cuts in stock numbers? What advice has the Government received that any sector of the economy can reduce emissions by 50% in just nine years?” Smith asked.

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