Friday, July 1, 2022

Pro-farming Emission Reduction Plan pleases

Alan Emerson says the additional money to scale up native seedling production to increase native planting and to create long-term carbon sinks is a good move.

I listened to the announcement of the Government’s Emission Reduction Plan (ERP), fully expecting it to be excessively prescriptive and anti-farming. 

I was wrong on both counts.

I was also expecting a major thrust about biking, walking and using public transport. 

All possible in the cities but not in the food producing rural hinterland.

While those topics are rightfully addressed, the document is far broader than I expected.

Also, in the past I’ve been highly critical of the plant more trees and pollute at will mantra. 

My position is that we should be addressing the problems at source and not polluting at will and then mitigating that pollution by just planting more trees. 

The Government document recognises that.

As with all documents there are parts I like and those I don’t. 

I do, however, support the general thrust of the publication.

With many Government plans, initiatives and documents I become irritated with the anti-farming bias and the blaming of agriculture for all our ills. The ERP offers solutions and pathways for the primary sector that I found both enlightening and encouraging.

For a start, we’re about to get $710 million over four years from the Climate Emergency Response Fund (CERP).

We’re getting a new Centre for Climate Action on Agricultural Emissions that will be responsible for developing and commercialising smart new products to reduce agricultural emissions.

I found that extremely positive. 

There’s been much written about emissions-reducing products but having them developed and commercialised is a solid step forward. 

In just last weeks Farmers Weekly we had an article on the methane-reducing qualities of Asparagopsis and the trials being conducted with it. 

It all sounded really positive.

That fund will also support getting Kowbucha, Bovaer and plantain on to the market.

“The Emissions Reduction Plan offers solutions and pathways for the primary sector that I found both enlightening and encouraging.”

My position is that we can meet our methane reduction targets with the right tools. 

Having the Government recognising that and then putting its money behind it is a major change in approach and most welcome.

The additional funding for forestry of $73.5m to increase woody biomass as an alternative to coal is also positive. 

The additional 10,000 hectares of forest to increase our biomass supply is of concern and I’d like to see some assurances that it won’t occur on good food producing land as is currently happening with carbon farming.

The additional money to scale up native seedling production to increase native planting and to create long term carbon sinks is a good move. 

I do believe natives have a solid long-term place in our GHG mitigation strategy and the initiative should encourage that.

Many Government publications are big on grand plans and light on detail but the ERP isn’t. 

A simple example is that they’ve allocated $61m over four years to pay bus drivers more. 

That means there will be drivers for the inevitable increase in bus numbers.

I also accept that electric cars are one initiative in the climate change strategy, albeit they’re not a lot of use in rural areas and there isn’t an electric ute option right now.

I was rightly critical of the subsidisation of high-priced electric vehicles and the taxing of utes.

Having said that I thought the “cash for clunkers” subsidy was good policy in that it encourages all into low emissions vehicles and not just the wealthy urbanite.

Reaction to the Government’s initiatives has been interesting. 

Federated Farmers led the charge saying they were pleased the Government had recognised that solutions to agricultural emissions lie in new technologies and tools and was stepping up investment to support it. 

President Andrew Hoggard said that nitrate and methane inhibitors, gene editing, animals bred for their lower methane burping would enable agriculture to support the NZ economy “while maintaining our world leading meat and dairy carbon footprint”. 

I agree.

Greenpeace was apoplectic, claiming the document should be called an Omissions Ridiculous Plan as it didn’t address the dairy industry. 

I can only figure they didn’t read the document and would suggest, in all sincerity, that they stay in the shallow end. 

Surprisingly, in my view, National came out suggesting that the Government shouldn’t be supporting the commercial sector. 

Leader Christopher Luxon told me that “too much of the new spending will go to corporate welfare and more working groups”. 

He must have had a different document to me.

Act labelled the ERP a “bonanza for bureaucrats and travesty for taxpayers”. 

I saw things differently.

What pleased me most about the announcement was the support shown by Government to the primary sector. ‘

The sooner tools are ready for farmers the sooner we move on our goal of biogenic methane reduction of 10% by 2030 and 24 -47% by 2050 was one of the statements made by Minister O’Connor. 

He added “our economic security depends on New Zealand’s food and fibre sector”. 

It does.

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