A total of $83 mln will be spent over 18 years to reduce rural emissions 30% by 2030 reports Allan Barber. A good investment?

Work in five key areas hopes to cut rural emissions 30% by 2030 without inhibiting output growth

By Allan Barber

The Pastoral Greenhouse Gas Research Consortium (PGgRc) has just announced that it has secured funding for a further seven years’ research into greenhouse gas (GHG) mitigation.

$2.3 million per annum will be contributed by industry partners to be matched by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment with the balance to come from AgResearch in its capacity as leader of the research project.

The consortium has been in existence since 2002 and to date has spent about $45 million of 50/50 joint venture funding from industry and government.

Its members are Fonterra, Beef & Lamb New Zealand, DairyNZ, AgResearch, Landcorp Farming, DEEResearch, PGG Wrightson Ltd and Fertiliser Association Joint Venture.

As its name indicates, the consortium’s sole focus since it started 11 years ago has been on finding ways to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions and during that period it has made some significant advances.

It has developed knowledge specifically in sequencing the first rumen methanogen genome, developing a low emission sheep flock and finding feeds that can reduce methane emissions.

Mark Aspin, Consortium Manager, told me that a continuation of the funding will enable the programme to focus on five key areas of research:

- Refining animal breeding tools for low emission livestock

- Identifying more low greenhouse gas feeds

- Identifying inhibitors that reduce ruminant emissions

- Developing a vaccine to reduce ruminant emissions

- Understanding the productivity effects and enhancing the adoption of mitigations.

The refreshed research programme, while recognising the long term commitment required, will be strongly focused on delivery of mitigation solutions, developed through an increased partnership between the consortium and the New Zealand Agricultural Research Centre (NZAGRC).

Both of these organisations will coordinate their operations to ensure rapid delivery of effective options for farmers.

While New Zealand’s greenhouse gas emissions would constitute a significant proportion of our obligations under any future commitment to reduce emissions, political points scoring tends to obscure why it is so critical to get it right.

Our economy and our agricultural sector in particular both depend on deciding on the correct entry point which is, I suspect, why the present Government has been so reluctant to commit itself.

Agriculture contributes 46% of New Zealand’s greenhouse gas emissions, a proportion no other country comes even remotely close to producing. Ireland with 27% is the closest and all other first world economies are in single figures.

The PGgRc has set itself an ambitious goal, stating in its press release

“The new work aims to develop a suite of ready-made tools that will reduce greenhouse gases by 30 per cent by 2030 while supporting the agricultural industry’s growth targets of two per cent each year.”

The benchmark year is 2008 when I understand emissions were at 1990 levels. As Mark Aspin said “it’s a big challenge, but we think we can get there.”

I suspect the Green party won’t be satisfied with this progress, because anything short of total commitment to eliminating greenhouse gases is unacceptable, whatever it costs the country. But it is a very solid programme of work backed by science and industry and public money which has some challenging, but achievable goals.

The best thing about it is that it won’t send agriculture and the country into a state of bankruptcy, but it should produce some real improvements in our GHG emissions.


Current lamb prices from all processors and saleyards are here »


Allan Barber is a commentator on agribusiness, especially the meat industry, and lives in the Matakana Wine Country where he runs a boutique B&B with his wife. You can contact him by email at allan@barberstrategic.co.nz or read his blog here »

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It is understandable that NZ prepares for a rainy day when international counterparts start to charge agricultural CO2 emissions (NOT carbon emission please!!!!!). 
BUT, the whole GHG business is based on belief not a single bit on robust and sound science. I cannot even use the word gullible to describe our policy makers because they are spurious!!!
$83 mil is a good amount waste on nothing at best! 
Please invest them in how to produce more high quality milk per cow not on how to stop them from farting and peeing. 
Please invest them in fixed capital that produces value added products not just powders!
Please invest them in mitigating nitrogen leaching as it has already had impacts on our waterways, lakes and coasts.
Please invest them in irrigation to smooth out drought impacts and give farmers certainties.
Please invest them in upgrading farm IQs as skilled labours are needed in this industry.
Please invest them in possum control and stop them from spreading TB!
Please invest them meaningfully and do not waste them on 'scientists' producing endless rubbish papers on things we breathe out and plants breathe in everyday!

Xingmowang - Many of the problems are being solved using biological farming methods. It's up to the farmers to start implementing the better practices and products available.  

The bio-farm aims at profit maximizing not on volume.
It may address emission from fosil fuel (from  fertilizer, tractor and electricity usage in a bigger sense) but does nothing on livestock emission which is that $83mil is going to be invested for.
One downside on the profit maximizing is that NZ is VERY likely to lose internaitonal market share on primary products when competing with EU27 and US who have far more flexible production line and supply chains.

Xingmowang - I strongly disagree. Profit maximising should always be the aim. Volume does increase as well so I'm not sure where you got your informations from.
Livestock emissions are cyclical. What gets put out comes back.
Why would NZ want to compete with mass produced junk food??? NZ has a unique point of difference and farmers should be making the most of that unique point of difference.
Do you have any idea what the consumers want to eat? People are getting educated beyond Proteins, fats and carbs and they want food that is macro and micro nutrient balanced.

Energy out = energy in. So more output per cow means more intense farming...more fossil fuels, more water etc etc, not sustainable.

Sorry, Allan, but this article is ignorance personified.
"while supporting the agricultural industry’s growth targets of two per cent each year.”
So it's to double by 2037. Yes? And your 'mitigation', in real terms, would be? Even if you halved your output, that would only be break-even in real output by then. And you won't halve your output. In real terms, that's an oxymoronic piece of shyte.
"The best thing about it is that it won’t send agriculture and the country into a state of bankruptcy"
Too late, you and we are there already - and that's via the fudging of real accounting. (This is a case in point - real accounting would cost in ALL impacts, including finite resource depletion, unaddressed pollution - mitigation is not addressing). 
We call it Natural Capital, and full addressing is not 'mitigation this side of bankruptcy'. Fiscal bankruptcy is an entirely artificial concept - the sun will still shine, photosynthesis will still happen, ocean-acid percentages will remain. Ecological bankruptcy is an entirely different thing - alter your habitat outside the survivable envelope, you die.
Real total results are the only count. 'Not I said the Little Red Hen' is immature blameshift, and 'without going broke' within a fatally-flawed accounting system (our current system needs constant growth) is an invalid yardstick.

"I suspect"  So any thought that maybe you were rational and balanced just flies out the window when you blindly accuse without evidence.
"send agriculture and the country into a state of bankruptcy"  the term to think of is "dead man walking".  What you are in effect saying is, lets commit my great grandchildren (ie about 2050~2080 or so) to a greatly limited lifestyle and shortened longevity, and their children (about 2100~2150) and indeed humans, extinct, just so I can carry one living as I do now. Not only that you aim to leave huge debt that cant be repaid, so that can but mean bankruptcy....you are just can kicking the problem to the next generation(s) who have no hope of coping with it.
Then given your "I suspect" line first off the second showing of substantial lack of morals isnt a surprise because that is the amoral position you are talking.