Federated Farmers likes how the Paris climate change agreement 'prioritises food security', claims methane easier to deal with than CO2, NZ farmers 'among the most carbon-efficient'

Federated Farmers likes how the Paris climate change agreement 'prioritises food security', claims methane easier to deal with than CO2, NZ farmers 'among the most carbon-efficient'

Content supplied by Federated Farmers

Federated Farmers welcomes the successful conclusion of the Paris Agreement on climate change, which for the first time includes developing countries.  The agreement also prioritises food security and food production, recognising the dual challenges of controlling global temperatures and feeding a growing population.

Federated Farmers, through National President Dr William Rolleston, who attended the talks in the first week, worked with the World Farmers Organisation and the New Zealand delegation at the Paris talks to ensure agricultural countries were considered in the negotiations.   

“It was significant how New Zealand’s position was taken up by many of the agriculture dominant countries.  The New Zealand delegation deserves significant credit for this outcome,” he says.

“Including food security as a priority, as well as flexibility in implementation and the provision of assistance to developing countries, was instrumental in getting developing countries on board and the key to a comprehensive deal which sets all countries on the same journey.”

The Paris Agreement is a high level agreement but provides scope to consider various technical responses. Something that Federated Farmers believes will have a profound effect on the responses expected of New Zealand is the role and value of biological methane in mitigating climate change, which has been keenly debated recently.

Federated Farmers Climate Change Spokesperson Anders Crofoot adds: Methane breaks down in a much shorter timeframe than carbon dioxide so, while it is considered the more potent of these two greenhouse gasses, it doesn’t accumulate as rapidly and that’s something that has to be considered.”

“The Paris talks will provide new momentum to discussions around this, but they also recognise the vital importance of food security and the role agriculture plays in feeding a growing global population.”

“It’s important to remember that New Zealand farmers are already among the most carbon efficient animal protein producers in the world, and have been reducing the carbon footprint of our products by 1.2% per year every year for the past two decades. Ongoing improvements in productivity, as well as the investment we have made into research through the Pastoral Greenhouse Gas Research Consortium and the Global Research Alliance, will continue to show that we are playing our part in this global challenge,” says Mr Crofoot.

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In 1991 a delegation from New Zealand was instrumental in ensuring the first IPPC Rio convention always referred to net rather than gross emissions. This recognised the very significant CO2 take up of forestry, farm and crop land that was a disproportionate share of New Zealand’s productive outputs vs industrialised countries was considered in any future emission calculations.

This was the basis of now universally recognised carbon credits.

Despite this earlier commitment - New Zealand subsequently and very unwisely chose gross agricultural emmissions as the basis of emission measurement rather than the scientifically accurate net emissions.

This was agreed to by then Minister Nick Smith not on any scientific basis but " by agreement between the parties ". Calculating agriculture net emissions was seen as too difficult and of course formed a much smaller share of total emissions for virtually all other countries vs New Zealand.

On a net basis – as calculated for biofuels – New Zealands’s agricultural emissions are roughly half the published figures. From this perspective, New Zealand’s overall emission levels show a very different scenario as agriculture is seen as contributing roughly half New Zealands total emissions.

Biofuel emissions are calculated on a net basis as is forestry. If this was not the case, then biofuels could not be seen to be generating zero net emissions. Biofuels are deemed to be zero net emitters world wide as evidenced by the extensive programs underway to use them as solutions via numerous new fuel program.

The simple and undisputed scientific fact is that the massive and certain absorption of atmospheric CO2 from New Zealand’s extensive grasslands and crops driven by the carbon cycle is currently not counted against our published agricultural emissions figures.

This leads one to believe we are a high emitter relative to others which is simply not the case.

Imagine a maize crop that is processed through a biodigester to make alcohol that is burnt as a fuel leaving universally acknowledged near zero net emissions as Air New Zealand are planning.

Yet that exact same crop as grown on New Zealand dairy farms today is denied the CO2 absorption credit that is allowed in the biofuel case.

Any initiatives that are based on these scientifically incorrect assumptions will invariably deliver distorted outcomes – and that is exactly the situation we are now attempting to address.

New Zealand has already stated that with virtually zero potential for emission reductions in both our Power – already at 80-90% renewables - and Agricultural sectors, meeting our Paris submissions will involve the purchase of offshore carbon credits which we do not know the future price of. Given the ongoing 45 years of current account deficits we have - this must involve more offshore borrowing.

As one of the worlds most efficient food producers to lower global emissions for any given level of food production it would make sense to increase NZ's outputs and consequent emissions at the expense off less efficient producers.

With ongoing population increases and increased food demands for wealthier consumers - agricultural emissions are going to increase. The objective should be to minimise these and this will involve higher - not lower emissions from NZ's agricultural sector.

Forestry absorption is only a time delay, the rest also probably, so gross is easier to monitor as a true figure ie less fiddle able.

"universally acknowledged near zero net emissions" who by?

This sounds like PR spin if its even true.


"Biofuels are deemed to be zero net emitters world wide as evidenced by the extensive programs underway to use them as solutions via numerous new fuel program."

and this has been dis-proved so much that now bio-fuels are no longer seen as good and programs canned.

"The objective should be to minimise these and this will involve higher - not lower emissions from NZ's agricultural sector."

Yet NZ is now using palm kernels, lots of fertilizer etc ie intensification by using more fossil fuel and its products, ergo its questionable we can actually produce more without making the envornmental damage worse. That is like crapping more and more in our backyard, just to feed foreigners and make the banks richer, makes no sense.

I agree that as we produce more the calculation / emissions should be per capita / kg in this case and we should be measured against everyone else so if we are truely better we should be penalised less.

Fertiliser usage in NZ fluctuates.

It is a bit of an urban myth that we are using more now than before. Check out Issue 67 for the graph of usage.

The statement from Federated Farmers is entirely opportunistic and disingenuous. Food security is about preventing food shortages – in the extreme, preventing famine or starvation, which are genuine threats in a number of regions. It has little to do with building new consumer markets for the New Zealand dairy industry or with the target of doubling the value of New Zealand’s agricultural exports (again, largely via newly expanded and increasingly intensive dairying).

In particular, New Zealand’s wholesale focus on China is concerned to drive change in Chinese food-buying behaviour. Traditionally, dairy in China has been considered strictly a food for babies, and something that should pay no role in an adult diet. (Nutritionally, there is increasing evidence to support this position.) Similar traditions extend throughout Asia. I would welcome any valid concern with the actualities of food security in New Zealand's policy thinking, but, the fact is, it is just not there. Those for whom food security is a living concern are not on New Zealand’s radar.

Grasping at the food security blanket provides poor cover for an industry whose actual concern is to stock Chinese supermarket shelves with new food choices.

Nicely put

one practitioners view
Food security is
Achieving food security is another objective attributed personally to Xi Jinping--"Chinese bowls must remain firmly in their own hands at all times and bowls must be filled mainly with Chinese food."

not maybe what the feds had in mind message-wise, this example sees security from the demanders point of view, not the suppliers/producers comfort..

and farmers are using more and more palm kernels

Grass farming is the way to go. You have to grow grass to have animals. Grass is a plant that absorbs CO2 and converts it to oxygen. This has to recognized in the equation, or else it just becomes a nonsense.