NZ Farmer - Farmer involvement crucial for Zero Carbon Bill

DairyNZ chief executive Tim Mackle says reducing greenhouse gases is a priority for the dairy sector, and is the whole premise of the Dairy Action for Climate Change plan.

The Zero Carbon Bill, which will be introduced to Parliament later this year, puts into action the Labour Government's commitment for New Zealand to become a world leader in climate change.

The only way for New Zealand to achieve this is for all sectors to do their part to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. This particularly effects the transport sector, who have seen a 78 per cent increase in carbon dioxide emissions since 1990. Reducing the country's emissions is a joint responsibility across all sectors. As an economy we are all in this together.

New Zealand is already one of the lowest emissions producers of dairy nutrition in the world but, right now, the dairy sector is responsible for 22.5 per cent of all New Zealand's emissions. To put this in perspective, agricultural emissions overall have increased by just five percent since 1990, however we also have a part to play in helping New Zealand meet its climate change commitments.

The Government plans to set a 2050 net zero emissions target and develop a Zero Carbon Bill, which will be out for public consultation on  May 31 and will be introduced to Parliament later this year.

The Zero Carbon Act will establish an Independent Climate Change Commission (an Interim one is already in place) who will develop five-year rolling carbon budgets outlining how each sector of the economy will meet New Zealand's greenhouse gas reduction targets. A decision will also be made about whether agricultural methane and nitrous oxide emissions should face a price in the Emissions Trading Scheme.

While the legislation presents a challenge, it will provide certainty for the dairy sector and all other sectors about what our emissions reduction pathway looks like. As a sector, it is in our interests to think about what actions and changes to the way we farm can we make in order for dairy to play its part in transitioning New Zealand to a low emission economy. It's also in our interests to engage with the Government to ensure the policies are balanced.

Many of New Zealand's dairy farmers across the country are already improving and adapting their farm systems to improve the environmental, social, and economic sustainability of their businesses. In part, this is because some of the work underway to improve water quality also has the co-benefits of reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Reducing greenhouse gases is a priority for the dairy sector, and is the whole premise of our Dairy Action for Climate Change plan. We are ensuring farmers and the agricultural sector understand the challenge of climate change, the scientific research underway and the environmental mitigations they can make on their farms right now.

I encourage all farmers to get involved in the public consultation for the Zero Carbon bill from May 31. Engagement by farmers during the consultation phase will ensure the best outcome for the dairy sector within the final legislation.