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Guy Trafford reviews what the Climate Change Commission's final report recommends for the rural sector. He sees an opportunity to lead change and restoration

Guy Trafford reviews what the Climate Change Commission's final report recommends for the rural sector. He sees an opportunity to lead change and restoration

The final report from the Climate Change Commission has now been released to the public, (Parliament has had nine days to peruse it). Not surprisingly public responses have been mixed.

Greenpeace are calling for greater reductions in dairy cow numbers and reduce livestock numbers overall. They and others are always quick to point out problems but are very light in providing alternatives. Regardless of what your opinion of livestock farming is, at a time when New Zealand is missing its largest export sector in the form of tourism is not the time at to hack away at the second largest export earner.

In the meantime, livestock numbers and associated emissions have been reducing and on farm efficiencies have been increasing. The same cannot be said for transport.

The graph below shows how New Zealand per head of capita for CO2 emissions from fossil fuel compares to Australia, the USA and the UK (UK’s profile is similar to many EU countries). While New Zealand’s CO2 emissions are considerably less than the US and Australia (who is the highest in the the world) we are still on an upward trend and in the highest quartile for emissions. Transport makes up 33% of New Zealand’s “long lived” gases (methane not included).

It appears the Climate Change Commission has recognised this and not taken as heavy a hand approach to agriculture that some were concerned about, and others were calling for, although it is not off the hook and the earlier published reduction rates are still there.

Agriculture makes 19% of New Zealand’s “long lived” gases but 91% of methane (short lived) which the commission has seen fit to continue to treat differently.

The reductions of methane of -10% by 2030 and -47% by 2050 with current technologies will be challenging enough but the industry sectors have already accepted these targets and agriculture needs to be seen to be doing its share even if not all agree its enough.

Given that funding for the PGGRC finishes later this year and government investment into Research, Development and Demonstration (RD and D) is only secure until 2025, the Commission felt a more certain roadmap needs to be laid out as to the future of research in methane and other on farm GHG reductions.

For the ‘long lived’ gases they endorsed the view that a pricing system (ETS?) would enable farmers to find the best way to reduce emissions on their farms. Where the pricing would fall was unclear; that is, they seemed to imply that measures should take place on farm rather than at the processors level. However, as in the 2020 decision, agriculture were given until June 2022 to agree upon how this should be carried out and the sector has until then to get this sorted. The Commission will review what is put up by Agriculture at that time and give its view and the Ministers (Agriculture and Climate Change) will have to have made their decision by the end of 2022.

Given the mention of contesting views by submitters to the Commission in the area around pricing and what, if any, free allocations sectors may receive, there is likely to be considerable public debate before we get to the end point. They pointed out that having the close 2022 deadline should give farmers confidence they will not be penalised by starting or continuing their pathway to instigate emissions against any future benchmarking. A 2025 starting point may have encouraged such fudging behaviour as was seen through Canterbury when N leaching limits were discussed and then brought in. However, 2026 is the earliest farmers are likely to see any payment requirements (if any) as January 1st 2025 is when farmers must be able to show they have their recording systems in place and know what their emissions are.

The Commission said as part of the process to incentivise farmers to move away from livestock systems, the government needs to “roll out” policies, tools and incentives and invest to create future emission reduction options. A summary diagram of governments role and actions is below.

When it came to forestry the Commission has said while it still favours some plantation forestry it should be at a lower level than the ETS policies currently favour, and more emphasis should be on native plantings.

There is a recognition than wholesale plantation planting has a negative impact upon rural communities.

However, they do believe farmers should be encouraged to plant more woodlots on farms, be them native or plantation. The preservations of wetlands were also worthy of a mention.

As indicated earlier the increases in New Zealand’s emissions are coming from transport. Long overdue, the Commission has been more urgent in trying to get Government to tackle this area with more commitment than has been seen in the past.

They have put forward three main areas for discussion:

  1. Reducing the publics reliance on (fossil fuel ) cars or light vehicles
  2. Rapidly adopt electric vehicles
  3. Begin work now to decarbonise heavy transport and freight.

They believe that many of the cost of private transport are hidden and there should be more done to encourage the use of public transport (which needs to be improved) through subsidies etc and including more outlying areas in their routes.

They have called for the government to have in place by the end of 2022 implemented plans to encourage the use of cycling, walking and public transport. No doubt the new Auckland harbour crossing plan was rolled out with this in mind.

All imported light vehicles need to be low emission vehicles by 2035. They believe the government needs to introduce “fiscal incentives to lower the upfront costs of EV’s as a matter of urgency” Increasing the costs of owning non-low emission vehicles is also mooted.

The freight and heavy transport sector have been treated with longer time frames to get their emissions lower with the 2050 deadline as being the goal.

For most policies, the Commission has laid out the Government has been given until the end of 2022 to get legislation in place to ensure action follows the rhetoric. This should mean that the politicians and bureaucrats are going to be working into the night for the next 18 months. However, the general tenor of the report is positive and while primarily dealing with climate change it has also, particularly when discussing forestry in conjunction with agriculture, linked in restoration of the environment.

If the vision outlined can be achieved, instead of being criticised for lack of action, farmers in the future may well be praised as the major leaders of change and restoration.

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21 Comments

At some point, 2 powerful and competing forces are going to collide; accelerating climate change and a dawning realisation of the extent to which Non Renewable Resources(NNRs) are being depleted.

Which will win? The rational aswer would be for all to accept that we cannot have infinite growth on our finite planet and that our consumer habite must abe drastically reduced, but I for one, wouldn't bet on that outcome-at least not initially. I think/fear that the impulse will be to somehow maintain our current standard of living, whatever that takes.
For my grandchildren's sake, i hope I am wrong.

"They and others are always quick to point out problems but are very light in providing alternatives. Regardless of what your opinion of livestock farming is, at a time when New Zealand is missing its largest export sector in the form of tourism is not the time at to hack away at the second largest export earner."

Forget 'export'. Forget 'earner'. How about we address the bigger elephant in the room, rather than the exhaust-pipe emanations thereof?

Yes, some of the virtue-signallers are light on suggested alternatives; but don't make the mistake of assuming that there ARE viable, seamless morphs available. In the case of our overshot, resource drawing-down species, much of the CCC projection will be overtaken by events.

Perhaps the way to look at it, is to ask whether our grandchildren will thank - or curse - us.

Touche Linklater; we wrote that about grandchildren, concurrently.

Reduce reuse, recycle, and learn to love your interglacial period.

That's a lot of love. Didn't you realise the next glacial period's been cancelled? "moderate anthropogenic cumulative CO2 emissions of 1,000 to 1,500 gigatonnes of carbon will postpone the next glacial inception by at least 100,000 years" https://www.nature.com/articles/nature16494.epdf?sharing_token=pU8mUBroP...

Photo is of lake brunner.

Balanced if you mean it will cut access, transport, living and even literally kill the same people all the way through then sure. But proposing ideas that will literally kill people and say their right to life is worth less than the MP's and author's right to imported fashion and restaurant meals from offshore and onshore slavery is hardly balanced. In fact there is even very little scientific and engineering basis and the report is using fairy numbers they literally got no expert advice on. They propose massive increased lines infrastructure changes across the whole country, and cut the resilience and electricity backups and then claim it will lower the cost of power. Yeah they are not the brightest spark or the dimmest bulbs but one step lower. It would be worth printing the report and then using it as toilet paper because that would have a far better effect on the environment and people than the proposed changes in the report which include rapidly increasing population, infrastructure and housing needs in the next 10 years (here is a clue that would actually increase emissions far far more).

It seems everyone is going to have to do something here and accept changes in their lifestyle and consumption - everyone says they have to do to much so its probably about right.
As a forestry person they still want 380,000 ha of exotic trees in the next 15 years for timber, biofuel, biomass etc (which will be a tall ask anyway) - its only a small % of the land area and we still aren't at what the estate was before it lost huge areas to Dairy.
The key message is around permeant radiata forests - how much and where should they be allowed - this is a fair point and one the forest industry also agrees with. There is a place for them but they have to be on land that will revert to native over time and not on land that could be used for productive animal or timber farming. (This is the biggest misunderstanding as the vast bulk of whats being planted at the moment is NOT PERMENANT forest but timber)
The biggest challenge will be to get the 25,000ha of native going each year - the 1.2 million ha of eroding land is there but the current land owners do not consider it suitable for native forests - they want to keep farming it. This will be the biggest challenge of all as if we dont get this native forest on the road now we will be in serious trouble in 20 years as if you look at the graphs this stuff is critical to allow the transition for everyone, farmers included (which apparently is to hard according to all industrys anyway) and get the result in 2050 and beyond.

If you watch the latest David Attenborough doc on Netflix ‘Breaking Boundaries’ we don't have much/any time to fiddle around - its pretty confronting, if you believe in science. It also explained to me where the science basis for the current environmental reset is coming from in water, nutrient and biodiversity.

JL - don't forget energy. Mike Joy
https://www.rnz.co.nz/national/programmes/afternoons/audio/2018799160/di...
mentions EROEI - Energy Return on Energy Invested - it's a key element in the Systems puzzle.
If you really want to get the whole in perspective, Clugston's Blip
https://www.amazon.com/Blip-Humanitys-self-terminating-experiment-indust...
is a must. I've got 30 acres of Macro and Euc (planted 89/90 and 94/95) on slip country, doing two jobs. Holding the slip and sequestering carbon. I don't take money for credits; that would just allow someone to DO something and as Dr Joy pointed out, we have to NOT do stuff.

I don't disagree - as I said we need to consume less stuff and trying to convince people of that is hard. The only way is to make it so expensive they can't - then they whinge and vote in someone who says you can and lets them!! I personally take the carbon and get more land and plant more all the time so it compounds away. Yes people do things but the trees grow and hold soil, biodiversity etc. Its all about energy at the end of the day and how we have misused and wasted so much (still are!!) I dont know the answer but just try to do my bit.

.

So when you cut access to hospitals, homes, education and work for the poorest people yet you go shopping and to events regularly while enjoying the cream of luxuries how are you doing your bit. You are not one bit and for those who need access to the basics of living you are stripping theirs and then saying that is your part done. You buy the latest, have a home, eat out, go to events, buy clothing and have access to work and then not once consider dropping all those things, removing access like you are doing to those who you consider beneath existence because they require petrol vehicle access to even live.

Pacifica - don't prejudge, eh?

Some of us have demonstrated how to live low-impact lifestyles.

pacifica,

But our economy is heavily reliant on consumerism. We are constantly exhorted to consume-like the hamster on the wheel-we have to keep the economy turning because that supports jobs. many of the less well-off in society depend on these jobs, so there's your conundrum.
I believe that we have little choice but to cosume less as a society and the 'burden' of that will fall most heavily on those who currently consume the most. We will need smaller houses, fewer cars and boats are other toys. The 'nice to have' things.
Amazingly, we will find in time, that we really didn't need them all.

Actually I think you would find a lot of farmers would plant small areas of their farm in natives, collectively creating a huge carbon sink - IF the incentives were sufficient. Unfortunately they are not.

I think you'd find that many have already planted Significant Natural Area, and so aren't happy.

Fair point!

Pdk - you are so right, we have to not do stuff. But how will you convince Joe Public to not go to a rock concert, or the rugby, or the races? All these and other similar activities are non essential - think Britain during WW2- but they do provide employment. This is the fallacy of off setting; it recognises that people will not stop these activities. We have a friend who says " I do my bit, I put my recycling out, but I will fly if I want to".

Ironically international flights don't get a mention , because they are , well , international.
Recycling may not achieve alot , but it does create the mindset, and that person might consider reduction as well.
I think it is important to think changes will make a difference , no matter how small. I planted 40 manuka today , and pondered the carbon impact of that , concluding it was small but better than not planting any. I also reflected that they would not be eligible for any carbon credits, even if i planted a Ha.

Guy, Dr Tim Mackle was on radio today saying the industry does not accept 47% methane reduction by 2050.

Upton Sinclair 1878–1968. American novelist and social reformer. "It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on his not understanding it."

The sheep and beef industry did not accept these targets either - and nor should they. A quick scan of the Beef and Lamb NZ submission to CCC, will show (pg15) that our industry group B&LNZ opposed the original 10% reduction in biogenic methane in the Zero Carbon Act, and also oppose this later 13.2% target suggested by the CCC. They go on to note..."B+LNZ disagreed with the level of this target being set in the ZCA as it was not based
on the latest science on the warming impacts of short-lived climate pollutants such as methane. B+LNZ firmly stands by this view." So I'm not quite sure who Guy means when he says in the article "industry sectors have already accepted these targets" - clearly not dairy, sheep or beef farmers - perhaps Llama farmers? When this government starts acknowledging the huge amount of sequestration occurring on 1.4M ha of native bush presently on farms, and when they start talking about net biogenic methane emissions rather than gross emissions - that will be the time to 'accept' but not until then.