Thursday, April 25, 2024

Sector weighs final CCC report

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Primary sector response to the Climate Change Commission’s final recommendations to the Government has been lukewarm, with concerns about some of the demands going to be placed on farmers and growers. DairyNZ chief executive Tim Mackle says a 10% reduction in biogenic methane will be a big ask, but the industry is committed to playing its part and reducing emissions alongside the rest of the economy.
Federated Farmers president Andrew Hoggard says the public service has become more invested in ‘trying to meet party goals instead of being a public service’.
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“We are pleased the goalposts haven’t shifted from the Zero Carbon Act and farmers now have certainty they need to make long-term investment decisions,” Mackle said.

“It is now up to the Government to deliver a credible emissions reduction plan for New Zealand – and the investment in tools and support required to achieve it.”

Mackle says DairyNZ agrees with the commission that NZ urgently needs a long-term plan for R&D investment from industry and government “to help us rise to the challenge”.

However, he remains concerned that agriculture will be asked to do the heavy lifting if there is not urgent action to reduce CO2 emissions.

Mackle says the recommended levels of carbon removed by trees is still too high and will lead to swathes of NZ sheep and beef farmland being converted to pine trees.

“It’s critical there are strict limits on the amount of offsetting fossil fuel emitters can do by planting exotic trees,” he said.

Beef + Lamb NZ chief executive Sam McIvor says the commission’s advice is encouraging about the need to cut gross CO2 emissions, but the predicted need to plant “far too many” exotic trees on productive farmland is a worry.

“While we still need to carefully read 400-odd pages of the final advice, we support the commission telling the Government that NZ must reduce its reliance on forestry offsets, in particular from pinus radiata,” McIvor said.

“However, the recommended levels of carbon removed by trees is still too high and will lead to swathes of NZ sheep and beef farmland being converted to pine trees.

“This will have significant negative impacts for sheep and beef farming and rural communities with knock-on effects for every NZ household.

“B+LNZ welcomes the commission’s strengthened advice on the need to change the NZ Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) to manage afforestation, which is something we have been advocating for, and the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment also recommended in his submission.

McIvor says it’s critical there are strict limits on the amount of offsetting fossil fuel emitters can do by planting exotic trees.

“B+LNZ asks the Government for specific policy proposals on this as a matter of urgency,” he said.

HortNZ chief executive Mike Chapman is pleased the commission has increased its estimate of how much land could be converted to horticulture, from 2000ha a year to 3500ha a year.

He says if horticulture can expand more, it will reduce some of the emission reductions required by other parts of the primary sector, and also reduce reliance on forestry offset, which the commission acknowledges ultimately passes the responsibility for achieving reductions to future generations.

“The report recognises that in order for horticulture to achieve its full potential, investment will be needed to remove barriers such as water availability and access to labour,” Chapman said.

Federated Farmers says the advice needs to be backed up with significant investment in improving access to science and technology on-farm, and the people needed to operate it.

President Andrew Hoggard says Feds are wary of any policy direction that assumes tougher regulation will force behaviour change.

“To expect landowners to make land-use changes based on the weight of regulation they face, rather than market forces, is unreliable and unlikely to deliver lasting improvements,” Hoggard said.

He says farmers and growers are feeling slammed by regulation changes, uncertain international markets and desperate labour force shortages.

“It would have been heartening for us to see the commission acknowledge these pressures and recommend non-regulatory solutions,” he said.

“Now we will wait to see if the Government’s emissions response plan, due by the end of the year, can take us further together without slamming farmers and growers even harder.”

National Party agriculture spokesperson David Bennett says if the Government follows the commission’s advice it will place a lot of pressure on farmers.

Bennett says although the advice is only recommendations, the reality is meeting the goals will require a lot of change in a very short period of time.

He says the commission’s own modelling of an expected 13% drop in dairy cow numbers by 2030 is a huge reduction in nine years.

“That’s not going to happen easily and some will go out of farming,” Bennett said.

He says the implications are also significant for sheep and beef farmers, particularly around land use as the demand for land to turn into forestry is likely to continue.

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