Federated Farmers - Transport, trees key factors in climate change response

New Zealand’s most effective actions on global warming in the short to medium term would be to focus on energy and transport, and improve current policies to better reward those who want to plant trees, says Federated Farmers.

The Federation’s climate change spokesperson, Andrew Hoggard, said the new report "Our Atmosphere and Climate 2017" provides a useful update on the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions.

"It confirms a lot of what we already know, including that agriculture is a significant contributor to emissions. Federated Farmers acknowledges the incredible amount of work going on to address climate change, and to reduce greenhouse gases.

"However, we need to be mindful of the international perspective. Greenhouse gases don’t recognise nations’ borders; this is a global equation.

"As some of the most efficient protein producers on the planet, if a New Zealand farmer doesn’t produce a kilo of milk or meat, then it will be produced elsewhere in the world and most likely more emissions will be released into the atmosphere," Mr Hoggard said.

The Paris Agreement acknowledged that "…safeguarding food security and ending hunger" is also a fundamental priority, so it is illogical to include NZ agriculture in the ETS when other producer nations don’t do so.

Scientists here and overseas are working hard on ways to reduce biological agricultural emissions (methane and nitrous oxide). Good information is starting to come through on changing animal diets, and breeding for animals that emit less methane.

"Farmers eagerly anticipate confirmed results, and our record as efficient producers shows we are early adopters of practices and technologies that work."

Even more exciting is the prospect of methane inhibitors or vaccines, that unfortunately are still five to seven years away from market release. There’s a good case for more investment in this scientific research if it accelerates progress, Mr Hoggard said.

As the Ministry for the Environment/Statistics NZ climate change report highlights, the greatest increase in New Zealand’s emissions since 1990 have come from road transport (mostly carbon dioxide), up 78 per cent.

"That’s an area we should target. How can we accelerate the switch to electric vehicles?"

The report echoes earlier recommendations of Net Zero and former Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment Jan Wright that planting more trees can offset emissions to meet Paris Agreement deadlines and while we await science advances.

"Farmers are very open to discussions about policies, including reducing red tape and current complexity, that could increase the rate at which trees are planted."