News and Views

Government’s methane target must change

methane cow stock image

DairyNZ has released its submission on the Zero Carbon Bill and is calling on the Government to revise the methane target in the Bill to one that does not put at risk New Zealand’s world-leading dairy sector. Farm profit could go down by as much as 42 percent and have a huge effect on national and regional economies under the current proposed range.

“Dairying in New Zealand is world-leading in producing low emissions milk. We have a reputation for sustainability, and we want to keep it that way,” says DairyNZ Chief Executive Tim Mackle.

“We are committed to playing our part in the transition to a low-emissions economy alongside the rest of New Zealand, but it must be done fairly, and consider the science as well as the economic impacts.

“DairyNZ supports much in this Bill. However, we still have strong concerns about the proposed 2050 methane reduction target range, and our continued support for the Bill is conditional on this changing” said Dr Mackle.

The Bill contains a 2030 methane target and a 2050 methane target range.

“While the 10% reduction by 2030 will be very challenging, we believe we can make a decent crack at it. Our modelling indicates an average annual cost could be up to $13,000 per farm between 2020 and 2030. That’s why we are advocating for the target to be checked by the Commission once they are established, and regularly reviewed.

“However, the 2050 target is just not realistic and must be changed.

”The Government’s proposed 2050 target range of 24 – 47% is not soundly based in science in a New Zealand context and it is higher than official advice.

“The economic modelling used to inform the Bill was also undercooked and did not include a robust analysis of the implications for dairy farmers. This is a fundamental issue, given the significant role of the dairy industry in New Zealand’s economy.

“DairyNZ is calling for the 2050 target to be up to 24%, and regularly reviewed whilst the science remains unsettled. We are also seeking that farmers to get recognition for their planting as a way of offsetting emissions. This figure reflects a fair-share reduction in methane required to stay below the 1.5-degree threshold and is broadly in line with the analysis of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, New Zealand Agricultural Greenhouse Gas Research Centre, the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, and other climate scientists, and is a prudent yet ambitious approach.

“DairyNZ estimates that with an up to 50% cut in methane dairy farmers total profit could reduce by between 33 to 42 per cent across the 2030-2050 period. This is a substantial loss in income and is more than ten times higher than the cost of $2,500 per farm estimated in the Regulatory Impact Statement.

“As a sector we have come a long way and we know we need to do more to help our farmers reduce and manage their emissions. That’s why we’ve been working over the last two years on our Dairy Action for Climate Change programme to build understanding and knowledge.

“DairyNZ will be there to support our farmers through the transition to a low emissions future. We will be announcing a new programme in August aimed specifically at improving greenhouse gases, water quality and profitability on farms at the same time to support a just transition.

“Farmers are putting a lot of effort into planting on their farms, which have water quality, biodiversity, biosecurity, and greenhouse gas benefits. Policies must see farmers getting recognition for this as every bit helps.

“We believe our position is an ambitious but fair approach that is informed by science. We hope that bipartisan support for this Bill can be achieved.

“Dairy in New Zealand has changed and innovated over the last 30 years, and we will continue to do so into the future. We can do this if the settings and support are right.” Dr Mackle concluded.

Source: DairyNZ

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