Friday, February 23, 2024

O’Connor blames farmer anger on misinformation 

Neal Wallace
Farmers’ anger fuelled by inaccurate portrayal of government stance, says minister.
Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor says farmers’ anger was fuelled by an inaccurate portrayal of the government’s stance on pricing agricultural emissions.
Reading Time: 2 minutes

Misinformation has fuelled anger among farmers over the pricing of agricultural greenhouse gases, says Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor.

He said claims such as riparian planting cannot be used to offset emissions are an example of the misinformation that has hindered consultation on the government’s response to the He Waka Eke Noa (HWEN) document.

Submissions on the issue are still being logged, but as of last week almost 19,000 had been received, according to the Ministry for Primary Industries.

About 16,000 were automated submissions via websites such as Beef + Lamb New Zealand and other rural lobby groups.

O’Connor would not be drawn on his response to issues raised, but said the themes were not a surprise.

“We are open to fresh ideas and to find agreement. We need to get this done,” he said.

Asked why the government didn’t simply accept the HWEN proposal, O’Connor said there were questions needing answers and issues in the document to be addressed.

O’Connor said he is open to extending the class of vegetation acknowledged as sequestering, but it has to be scientifically validated.

“Technology will one day allow accurate identification of all forms of sequestration including soil, but these systems must not require more effort to measure sequestration than it is worth.”

Similarly, calls by HWEN to reset long-term methane targets using the GWP* measurement will be determined by its accuracy and effect on global warming.

O’Connor said addressing climate change is more than not contributing to any additional global warming but involves reducing the impact of greenhouse gases that have been pumped into the atmosphere for decades.

“It is not good enough just to have no further affect, we have to reduce the effects of global warming over the last 100 years.”

Any reset of 2050 methane targets from the proposed range will depend on technical assessments and the trajectory of methane emissions.

The minister maintains the positions of HWEN and the government are closer than is acknowledged, despite industry bodies and companies using terms such as “unacceptable” and “unworkable” to describe the government’s response to the pricing proposal.

Politicians and officials did not need to front public meetings during the six-week submission process, he said, as this was the end of several years of engagement and was a process for industry bodies to confirm their response.

“I don’t think there has been any shortage of avenues for sharing information and views,” he said.

O’Connor said the need for the sector to address emissions will grow as more global customers start requiring suppliers to quantify and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

“Those hoping a change in government will make all this go away, it’s not going to happen. 

“The National party still intend to introduce a pricing system for emissions.”

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