Saturday, April 13, 2024

Emissions policy hasn’t capped sector dissent

Neal Wallace
O’Connor says critics need to spell out their position for levy payers.
Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor says critics of the government’s greenhouse gas emissions policy have not clearly explained their positions to levy payers and are not reflecting what exporters are saying. File photo
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A rift appears to be developing between the government on one side and Beef + Lamb NZ and DairyNZ on the other over policies to price agricultural greenhouse gas emissions.

The government last week caught the sector unawares by announcing it is to require farmers to report farm-level emissions from the end of 2024 and will put a price on those emissions in late 2025.

Responding to industry criticism about the timing and lack of detail in the announcement, Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor told Farmers Weekly that some of the reaction was predictable and gives farmers misleading information.

Asked if he was referring to criticism levelled at his plans by Beef + Lamb NZ (BLNZ), DairyNZ and the Meat Industry Association (MIA), O’Connor said their response indicated a stepping back from their role in He Waka Eke Noa.

He said critics have not clearly explained their positions to levy payers and are not reflecting what exporters are saying – that consumers want food producers to address greenhouse gas emissions.

Primary sector groups were told of the new policy only the afternoon before it was publicly announced, which BLNZ, DairyNZ and the MIA described as “frustrating”.

In addition to delaying the requirement to report farm-level emissions to the end of 2024 and pricing those emissions in late 2025, the policy is to ensure pricing is at farm level and set at the lowest price needed to meet reduction targets.

It will use a split gas approach and allow scientifically validated on-farm sequestration to be included in the Emissions Trading Scheme.

DairyNZ chair Jim van der Poel reiterated in an interview his criticism of the poor timing of the announcement, coming so soon after Fonterra lowered its forecast milk price.

He was also critical about the lack of detail, such as who will determine an emissions price and how will it be set.

“To say ‘We are going to price you in a couple of years’ but then not provide any detail, it wasn’t very helpful,” he said.

The dairy sector wants to be part of a solution – but not one that undermines rural communities, he said.

BLNZ chair Kate Acland also reiterated her frustration at the timing and the announcement’s focus on pricing instead of developing systems to measure and report emissions.

“The sector is showing progress towards reaching emission targets. Taxing us is not going to get us there any faster,” she said.

The policy does not include a review of methane targets and their impact on global warming as was requested by BLNZ and Federated Farmers. 

O’Connor said there is nothing new in the policy and he timed its announcement to ensure development work continues on an emissions calculator and sequestration assessment.

He described his relationship with primary sector leaders as “robust” and said it will continue to be so, adding that his door remains open to leaders to discuss any issue.

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