The primary sector is chalking up a small victory after the government agreed to amend the Emissions Trading Scheme to recognise more classes of carbon-sequestering vegetation.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor and Climate Change Minister James Shaw have announced that from 2025 it will start the process of collating all “scientifically robust forms of sequestration.” Introducing more classes of vegetation into the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) will follow later.
“We want a plan for reducing agricultural emissions we can all agree on. We’ve heard sequestration is a top priority for farmers and critical to making He Waka Eke Noa work,” Ardern said.
The HWEN partnership recommended that the ETS be amended to recognise more vegetation categories for sequestering greenhouse gases, and that eligible vegetation types be transitioned into the scheme as it is expanded and improved.
The government’s initial response removed many classes of vegetation proposed by the partnership, but Ardern said in a statement that the submission process had shown the importance of sequestration to farmers.
“The industry has asked for a plan that covers all forms of scientifically robust sequestration possible on-farm, and we support that,” O’Connor said.
It will require much technical work – and O’Connor said it will also involve establishing native forests at scale.
“This builds on the government’s commitment to establish native forests at scale to develop long-term carbon sinks and improve biodiversity,” he said.
“What we are proposing represents a significant shift in the way the ETS works,” said Shaw.
“It means farmers will get full recognition for scientifically proven sequestration on their farms.
“This should unlock a wave of research, science and innovation into forms of emissions removal that also enhance biodiversity and other important values that aren’t always achieved through exotic forestry plantations.
“Bringing new categories into the ETS may take some time, so there will also be a need to ensure transitional arrangements from 2025.”
Correction: An earlier version of this article did not specify that the government would introduce more classes of vegetation into the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) at a later stage.