Farm organisations want Climate Change Commission to align domestic and international emissions targets

Two major farming groups have urged the Climate Change Commission to align New Zealand’s domestic policy with its international promises on climate change, RNZ reports.

DairyNZ and Beef and Lamb New Zealand contend it makes no sense for the government to do one thing within New Zealand and something else for the rest of the world.

Their concern was based on the relative importance of different greenhouse gases.

For domestic policy purposes, the legislation sets a different emissions reduction target for long-lived gases like carbon dioxide than for a short-lived gas like methane.

But its international commitment under the Paris Accords of 2015 treats all greenhouse gases the same.

The two farming organisations announced their positions after Climate Change Minister James Shaw announced he has asked the independent Climate Change Commission to review New Zealand’s Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) under the Paris Agreement.

The purpose of the review is to ensure the NDC is consistent with the goal, unanimously agreed by Parliament last year, of limiting global warming to 1.5˚C above pre-industrial levels.

DairyNZ’s chief executive, Dr Tim Mackle, says New Zealand took a world leading approach by legislating a split gas target in the Zero Carbon Act last year.

“This recognised that methane is a short-lived gas and requires a different approach to the long-lived carbon dioxide.   

“While we need to take carbon to net zero, we can achieve a situation where we are no longer adding to global warming by reducing and stabilising our methane emissions.”

New Zealand’s international target is expressed as a reduction of all greenhouse gases by 30 percent on 2005 levels.

“This is a misalignment with our domestic policy and what the science has said on methane. Having an international target that splits the gases will send a much clearer signal to the international community on why New Zealand’s approach is in line with a 1.5 degrees target,” said Dr Mackle.

“It will also allow us to put something on the table that is domestically achievable, and it will support policy alignment with what was legislated last year through the Zero Carbon Bill.

“We are urging the Climate Change Commission to consider if New Zealand’s international target should be recommunicated as a split gas target, the same as how we are approaching this issue domestically.

“While the Commission is reviewing our Paris Commitments, they should also be reviewing our domestic targets – particularly the methane reduction target which is set as a broad range – to ensure they are fair and appropriate in a New Zealand context,” Dr Mackle concluded.

Beef and Lamb New Zealand welcomed Mr Shaw’s request to the Climate Change Commission to review and provide advice to the Government on New Zealand’s international greenhouse gas reduction targets.

“The Climate Change Commission is best placed to ensure there’s consistency between New Zealand’s international and domestic targets, and to provide scientifically-sound, depoliticised advice to the Government,” says B+LNZ’s Environment Policy Manager Dylan Muggeridge. 

“The Government took a world leading split-gas approach to the Zero Carbon Act and we ask that the Commission consider if New Zealand’s international target should be recommunicated as a split-gas target. “

B+LNZ is encouraged that the Minister has asked the Commission to take a specific look at the reductions required from biogenic methane emissions. While B+LNZ supported the ground-breaking split-gas approach taken in the Zero Carbon Act,  Mr Muggeridge says there are still issues with New Zealand’s methane targets not being in line with the latest science.

“Sheep and beef farmers are absolutely committed to playing their part in responding to climate change. Beef + Lamb New Zealand ultimately wants to ensure that the targets set in legislation support delivering absolute reductions of greenhouse gas emissions, in particular fossil fuel emissions, in order to meet New Zealand’s international commitments. This needs to be done in a way that supports the wellbeing of New Zealand and all New Zealanders, including those contributing to our food production sector and our rural communities.

“With the Commission having essentially been provided with a clean sheet to examine the latest available scientific evidence on biogenic methane and to reflect New Zealand’s circumstances when providing this advice, we’re looking forward to their consideration of new and more accurate methodologies for calculating the global warming potential (GWP) of methane through the University of Oxford’s GWP*.”

B+LNZ is also encouraging Mr Shaw to go a step further and request a formal review of the Zero Carbon Act targets as allowed under the act, which the Minister said he was going to do after the Act was passed.

“Our farmers want certainty. They need any targets and policies to be informed by the most up-to-date science available to provide them with this certainty. We’ve already seen in recent weeks that a new and more accurate way of measuring nitrous oxide emissions for sheep, beef cattle and dairy cows on hill country has led to a significant reduction in those emissions which illustrates how important using the latest and most accurate science available is.

B+LNZ looks forward to working constructively with the Climate Change Commission as it conducts its review and develops recommendations to the Government, Mr Muggeridge said.

Sources:  RNZ, B+LNZ  

Author: Bob Edlin

Editor of AgScience Magazine and Editor of the AgScience Blog

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