News and Views

Time needed to digest door-stopper emissions report

Federated Farmers sees positives, but also some recommendations that will cause considerable agricultural sector disquiet, in the Productivity Commission’s “Low Emissions Economy” final report.

“At 620 pages, with 173 findings and 78 recommendations, it’s a door-stopper that deserves careful scrutiny,” Feds Climate Change spokesperson Andrew Hoggard says.

“We’re pleased to see the Commission recognises the credible arguments for long-lived and short-lived gases to be treated differently.

“It sees driving down long-lived gases (carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide) to net zero as the top priority and it recommends these gases be included in the ETS.

“Methane, a short-lived gas, would have a separate emissions pricing scheme to incentivise reductions. We’d need more time and information to assess the practicality and impacts of that approach,” Andrew says.

In the lengthy chapter on land use change, it’s suggested land devoted to arable and horticulture will expand two- or threefold up to 2050.

“There’s a question mark over whether this is feasible or profitable but it deserves consideration.

“Much more worrying to the provinces is the recommendation that the amount of land planted in forests will need to increase by between 1.3 and 2.8 million hectares, and most of this will be land currently used for sheep and beef farming.

“Up to 2.8 million more hectares in forestry is around a fifth of all current land in agriculture (around 14 million hectares). That sort of land use change would be devastating for many rural communities in terms of job opportunities and sustaining the social and economic fabric of small towns,” Andrew says.

The Commission recognises the strides in productivity gains already made by New Zealand farmers and says such gains need to continue, and the practices adopted faster and more widely.

“We take that on board. But it’s also true that the world needs both animal and plant nutrition to provide balanced nutrition. This needs to be produced in the most suitable locations for high productivity of each type.

“The New Zealand pasture system is one of the most productive for animal nutrition, such as dairy. For example our greenhouse gas emissions per litre of milk is half to one third of the global average.”

On a positive note, Federated Farmers is pleased the Commission has recognised the “strong” case for boosting funding for research on mitigations that farmers could adopt to reduce emissions.

The Commission said: “Under current policies, continuing funding for agricultural emissions mitigation research is uncertain and small (at around $16m each year) in relation to the size of the agricultural sector and downstream processing (about 6% of GDP)…(and) the total size of Government’s contribution of funding for innovation (in excess of $1.5 billion each year).

Source: Federated Farmers

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