Commission outlines advice on how NZ should reshape economy to tackle climate crisis

The Climate Change Commission has published a draft discussion paper, noting that the Government has committed to reaching net zero emissions of long-lived gases by 2050, and to reducing biogenic methane emissions by between 24-47% by 2050. It says its work shows that meeting these targets is possible – and can lead to a thriving, climate-resilient and low

But the Government must pick up the pace.  New Zealand will not meet its targets “without strong and decisive action now to drive low emissions technologies and behaviour change across all sectors”.

The country must focus on decarbonising and reducing emissions at the source.

“As a country we can no longer rely on forests to meet our climate change targets.”

In 2018, gross greenhouse gas emissions in New Zealand were about 45.5 Mt CO2-e of long-lived gases, and 1.34 Mt CH4 (biogenic methane).

The commission’s analysis shows if policy stays as it is now, the country will fall short of achieving the 2050 net zero long-lived gas target by 6.3 Mt CO2-e. Biogenic methane would reduce 12% below 2017 levels and fall short of the current target of 24-47%.

Priority areas for action include increasing the number of electric vehicles on our roads, increasing our total renewable energy, improving farm practices and planting more native trees to provide a long-term carbon sink.

Among the commission’s observations:

  • Agriculture has a large role to play in reducing emissions, and farming needs to become even more efficient. There have been improvements in the last few decades, but more can happen.
  • New Zealand has been an agricultural world leader over recent decades. It must adapt and improve our use of our land to keep this status. This means developing, adopting and using practices and technologies that lower emissions and address climate change.
  • Forests have a role to play, “but we can’t plant our way out of climate change”.

The report says the Government needs a cohesive strategy that includes water, biodiversity and climate.

There are multiple benefits to taking a holistic view of how we use and protect our land.

There are changes farmers can make now to reduce emissions on their farms while  maintaining, or even improving, productivity. This includes reducing animal numbers and better animal, pasture and feed management. Policy support is needed to make this happen.

The commission’s advice advocates for a long-term plan for targeted research and development of new technologies to reduce emissions from agriculture.

Pine trees will still play an important role in getting to 2050 and could support a future bioeconomy, as bioenergy to replace fossil fuels and as timber for building.

Existing forests, small blocks of trees, soils and wetlands can all store more carbon. Work is needed to better understand this potential and how to include this in accounting systems.

Native forests can create a long-term carbon sink while providing a range of other benefits, like improving biodiversity and erosion control. Incentives are needed to get more native trees planted.

In 2018, agriculture emissions made up about 90% of biogenic methane and 18% of long-lived gas emissions. This is 1.2 Mt CH4 and 8.3 Mt CO2-e, respectively.

Long-lived gases from agriculture are largely nitrous oxide, coming from animal urine and synthetic fertiliser use. Smaller amounts of carbon dioxide are emitted through other types of fertiliser.

Biogenic methane emissions from agriculture are primarily from deer, sheep, beef and dairy cow burps.

By 2035, the commission’s path shows that biogenic methane emissions from agriculture reduce to 0.97 Mt CH4, and long-lived gases reach 6.9 Mt CO2-e. “This puts us on track to meeting our 2050 target”.

The draft proposal will be open for public feedback starting tomorrow until 14 March.

Source:  Climate Change Commission

Author: Bob Edlin

Editor of AgScience Magazine and Editor of the AgScience Blog

Leave a Reply