Bruce Wills points out the double standard of those wanting to protect manufacturing jobs while pushing to tax agriculture more heavily. Your view?

Bruce Wills points out the double standard of those wanting to protect manufacturing jobs while pushing to tax agriculture more heavily. Your view?
Trees on farms don't qualify as ETS mitigation

By Bruce Wills

When it comes to the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS), perhaps quote of the week came from Jan Wright, the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment.

Speaking recently onTV3's The Nation, Jan Wright corrected a popular view among the media when host, Rachel Smalley, said farmers were exempted from the ETS.

Jan Wright replied,

"New Zealand is in an interesting position because half of our greenhouse gas emissions are from agriculture, which is unusual among developed countries, but I am actually less concerned about agriculture than I am than these heavy industrial emitters and that's because the agricultural gases are different. It is difficult and there are challenges there ... I say agriculture should come in but I don't have the same problem being generous to it ..."

It is a shame Jan Wright’s generosity is not shared among commentators.

She recognises agriculture is not sitting on our haunches doing nothing while paying the ETS just like everyone else.

This in fact lies behind a media appearance this week when my ewe ‘Jackson’ gave birth to quintuplets; the ‘Jackson Five’.

Three lambs are common, four are rare but five is very rare, it has been a quarter of a century since I last saw that number born to a single ewe.

Yet what may appear as a cute media story is the reason why we have reduced our carbon intensity as an industry.  New Zealand’s farms are producing more lambs, more dairy and more fibre from dramatically less breeding stock. That is efficiency for you.

It means we can put lamb into a London Marks & Spencer for less carbon than an equivalent lamb from the valleys of Wales.

As the global population reaches stratospheric proportions, farmers around the world cannot believe the ETS we have here. Not just farmers either I wager.

The people of France would find the taxation of primary food unacceptable as would the peoples of Canada, Japan and for that matter, the United States.

My Vice President, Dr William Rolleston, who was on The Nation panel, made the sensible point that if you drive production overseas to less efficient economies, you simply export emissions too. Worse, instead of steadily reducing emissions as we have done for the past 20 years, more emissions in every unit of production would be the result.

I believe Jan Wright was more relaxed about agriculture because of all the sectors in New Zealand, we are the one committed to finding solutions.

Farmers are direct funders of agricultural green house reduction research and New Zealand leads the world. But we are not only following but delivering results. As each year passes, we reduce carbon in each unit of output by between 1.3 and 1.8 percent.

On of the reasons our current ETS fails is because not one tree on my environmental award winning farm qualifies and that speaks volumes about it.

While agriculture is said to account for half of all our emissions, we are counting only a fraction of what farmers do to mitigate things. You see under the ETS’ rules, forestry land is defined as being at least one hectare covering more than 30 percent of each hectare. If the average width of a forest is less than 30 metres, it does not qualify.

It means most riparian plantings, erosion control and shelterbelts count for nought in the eyes of Kyoto forestry. They count for a lot in my eyes. Those trees still soak up carbon.

At least I was encouraged by the words of Labour’s Moana Mackey.  She acknowledged what many media don’t; agriculture is not exempt from the ETS as farmers pay for our fuel and electricity just like everybody else. Where we disagree is the cost. Labour plays down the cost but that does not accord with alarming numbers produced by inputting data into Lincoln’s carbon calculator.

This state of affairs doesn’t just apply to us.

In 2009, the incredibly sharp Chris Hipkins MP said, “... the people in my electorate want to know why they should pay higher taxes or have a lower level of public services, so that the big emitters, such as Rio Tinto and its Canadian and Chinese owners, can make a larger profit and be subsidised by the Government for their emissions”.

In my mind you cannot cry foul over a crisis in manufacturing and call to protect Tiwai Point, while pushing for emitters to be enrolled in the ETS.

If you want to close down Tiwai Point then the ETS is a sure-fire way to do it.

On The Nation, the Green’s Kennedy Graham said Sweden had cut its agricultural greenhouse gases by ten percent and this seems true. Yet the how is instructive.

My counterpart at the Swedish Farmers Federation, Helena Jonsson, conceded in an interview that Swedish agricultural output has been falling by 2 percent each year.

For a nation that has a green perception, this month she candidly told the International Federation of Agricultural Journalists that there is no proof the ‘greener approach’ is more profitable to be sustainable. Helena Jonsson warns us that domestic compliance costs have made Swedish agricultural goods less competitive to cheaper imports.

It is a warning about believing your own propaganda on what is New Zealand’s true ‘reputation risk.’

-------------------------------------------------------------

Bruce Wills is the President of Federated Farmers. You can contact him here »

We welcome your help to improve our coverage of this issue. Any examples or experiences to relate? Any links to other news, data or research to shed more light on this? Any insight or views on what might happen next or what should happen next? Any errors to correct?

We welcome your comments below. If you are not already registered, please register to comment.

Remember we welcome robust, respectful and insightful debate. We don't welcome abusive or defamatory comments and will de-register those repeatedly making such comments. Our current comment policy is here.

6 Comments

Comment Filter

Highlight new comments in the last hr(s).

Dear Bruce Willis,

Congratulations on your environment award and all the best to "Jackson", the quin-bearing ewe.

It's great that you can put lamb into a London Marks & Spencers for less carbon than an equivalent lamb from the valleys of Wales.

So why can't your stock go into the emissions trading scheme without any handouts?

It's great that you have been steadily reducing emissions for the past 20 years

So why can't your stock go into the emissions trading scheme without any handouts?

It's great that you are committed to finding solutions.

So why can't your stock go into the emissions trading scheme without any handouts?

It's great that you are reducing carbon in each unit of output by between 1.3 and 1.8 percent.

So why can't your stock go into the emissions trading scheme without any handouts?

And another thing , Mr Bruce Willis , do you know the total carbon-footprint of your latest movie , " A Good Day to Die Hard " ?
 
........ clearly the planet hasn't reached " Peak Bullets " yet .....
 
Yippee-Kai-Yay !

The thing is to compare the carbon footprint of agri produce across the world and not to compare nz agri produce with say aliminium manufacturing...apples with apples.  I also wonder that co2 output shouldnt be linked to point ofuse....so really we have a co2 output for aliminium but a) its hydro produced, but b) its not used  here...so why do we pay that penalty?
If NZ is actually producing more output with a lower carbon footprint than any other country then its crazy to send that production offshore and have a higher co2 output per kilo as a result.
What we should be doing is having a system that encourages lower and lower co2 output per kg and not taxing it to stop its manufacture...somethings you just cant do that with...
Our problem is really not co2/kg its population pure and simple....
regards

The rest may be correct, but it is not population that is the problem. Over consumption of resources  by the privileged few, poor distribution etc but not over population.

Mr February
Why? If the rest of the world is not going to tax there live stock would a little country down the bottom of the globe be so stupid as to tax there stock. A tax on livestock would penalise the industry and affect your lifestyle and price of your food. Or would you be some one who would just buy cheaper imported food from people who don't tax there livestock emmissions.