A more activist approach to climate change drawing in agriculture will produce some winners in the sector, but as the only country proposing GHG liabilities for livestock, change is coming

By Guy Trafford

Labour, when it was last in Government, had firmly signaled that agriculture were going to be required to meet their share of the cost of meeting the nations greenhouse gas emissions obligations.

Under National, a period of grace was bought. However, it has only been a matter of time before focus is brought back to bare on the sector that emits nearly 50% of New Zealand’s emissions.

At the Paris Accord (December 2015) New Zealand agreed to reducing 2030 net emissions to 30% below 2005 levels. Given levels have increased by 23% since 1990 this is not going to be easy and if the largest emitting sector with 49% is left out then reaching this target is doomed from the beginning.

To this end, Climate Change Minister James Shaw has announced the members of a climate change committee and asked them to look at how to get agricultural emissions down. The good news (is this good news?) is that any liabilities will be held to 5% within this term of Goverment. The high powered  group are asked to look at "the full range of feasible options for including agriculture in the NZ ETS”.

However, Shaw said “there was a live possibility that agriculture would not enter the ETS - but if it did not there would be a question of what to do instead”. Per head of capita New Zealanders sit at 23rd of 188 nations on 16.62 metric tonnes of CO2e. The much criticised China is 8.49 and India 2.28. The World average per capita is 6.27.

However, if livestock is brought into the CO2e liability equation, then for some farmers with diverse land forms (steeper country) then there is a profit opportunity from the returns to be made from harvesting carbon from planting land in trees. This may more than offset the CO2e from livestock and even show a profit, at least for some time.

Pine trees have been shown to be able to capture CO2e for up to 50 years pushing out the reckoning period beyond most people’s planning horizons.

Currently New Zealand is the only country seriously considering applying GHG liabilities to livestock.

SHEEP
In the meantime, sheep prices are holding well with a lift for lamb on some schedules. In Canterbury and most likely in other provinces as well, despite increasing numbers of lambs coming through the sale yards as well as several on-farm lamb sales prices appear to be holding well. Whether these prices will last into this week will be interesting to follow as last week’s icy blast was an untimely reminder that winter is on the horizon and the good grass growing conditions will not last for much longer.

On the positive side to keep prices up is the fact that most lambs are in good ‘forward’ condition and finishing farmers who may have expected lambs to tick over with lower weight gains are already getting close to the weights when they go to processors and these farmers will be looking for more lambs.

BEEF
Manufacturing grades took a trim on some schedules as has been expected and with the dairy cow cull ratcheting no upside should be expected before June. Generally, beef prices are behind where they were this time last year, which perhaps makes the prices being paid for weaners somewhat surprising. However, breeders will not be complaining.

DEER
Some more specific prices for weaner deer this week with weaner stags averaging $6.48 per kg LW and getting up to $7.14. Weaner hinds are averaging $6.02 and getting up to $6.21 per kg LW.

At the processors stag venison prices are still holding at $11.00 per kg carcass weight.

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?

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45 Comments

Farmers need to tell the political and trougher classes to take a hike unless soil carbon is taken in to account.

“Adaptive multi-paddock grazing can sequester large amounts of soil C.

Emissions from the grazing system were offset completely by soil C sequestration.”
https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0308521X17310338

up
12

Unacceptable. Anyone knows that facts are a patriarchal tool of oppression. As an urban green my feelings are what truly matters, and my peer group tells me (and I agree with whatever they say) that farmers are the root of all evil and should be taxed and regulated to oblivion to pay for my lattes and smashed avocados.

Well managed dairy farms add about 10mm of top soil a year. With about 1.8million Hectares in Dairy that's on the order of 0.2cubic km per year over dairy land in NZ. For comparison NZ liquid fuel use is about .009 cubic km per year.

In truth the biggest polluting industry in NZ is the great left-wing hype tourism, with tourists flying in and driving around using about 20-25% of all liquid fuels in NZ or around 2billion litres (0.02km³) a year. Plans to grow that do not match Green rhetoric about wanting to reduce CO2 emissions.

Tourists use 20-25% of all liquid fuels? Got a reputable source to back that up?

So does this mean that the soil absorbs more carbon if it's being grazed on by cows, than if it isn't? Why?

It's because rotational grazing with ruminants increases soil micro-organisms. Microscopic fungi produce a substance called glomalin, which binds the soil structure and retains water and carbon. Continuous cover with plants also stops soil erosion (and thus carbon loss), and the hooves of the animals are beneficial for soil structure also. The plant residues from each episode of grazing decompose in the soil, increasing carbon.

What's the counterfactual here?

For example - is the claim that "rotational grazing with ruminants increases soil micro-organisms" over and above what the level of soil micro-organisms would be under any other conditions?

More than if the land were used to grow trees, or vines, or wheat, or to build houses on, or left virgin?

Agreed. And we should not be spending a cent on carbon credits, they are a rip off.

Guy read this, climate change is happening but the reason is not CO2.

The next Grand Solar Minimum, Cosmic Rays and Earth Changes (an introduction)

What to expect in a Grand Solar Minimum. How does an increase in galactic cosmic rays affect the Earth’s climate and also tectonic activity?

Here is a simplified description of the basic mechanism:

A solar maximum is the period within the 11-year solar cycle of high solar magnetic field and high sunspot count. Sunspots are highly magnetic and visually dark spots or ‘holes’ in the photosphere of the sun, where solar flares can erupt.

A solar minimum is the low activity trough of the 11-year solar cycle (Schwabe Cycle). A Grand Solar Minimum is a period of several successive very low Schwabe Cycles, usually coinciding with phases of climate disruption and – in the long run -cooling. An example is the Maunder Minimum (c. 1645 and 1715) that coincided with the coldest phase of the Little Ice Age. The Little Ice Age, from which we have been emerging since c. 1850, was the coldest period of at least the last 8,000 years, possibly the entire Holocene. Grand Solar Minima recur in clusters roughly every 200-400 years. 27 Grand Minima have been identified during the Holocene (Usoskin et al. 2007). Thus, we were in Grand Solar Minimum about 1/6 of the total time.
https://abruptearthchanges.com/2018/01/14/climate-change-grand-solar-min...

Yes, because most of the world's climate scientists are so stupid that they haven't thought of that.

The IPPC's brief specifically excludes them from considering alternative climate inputs.

Yes ... even the Sun!

The Greens are on a roll but suspect Winston will step in before things get too loony. I think we're almost at peak loon.

almost at peak loon? hahaha, we have so much further to go. Pour a G & T, take a seat under the sun umbrella and remember to check your 6 periodically!

First thing to understand with Agricultural emissions is that they are measured on a Gross basis and do not net off the massive CO2 absorption by grasslands and crops used in their production.

Measured agricultural emissions are thus roughly half the published figures.

Growing crops for biofuel is of course counted - the only way they can achieve zero emissions. So the exact same maize crop for biofuels counts for credits - feed it to cows - sorry doesn't count.

Similarly emissions growth is thus also overstated by a factor of roughly two.

If we are to become carbon zero by purchasing credits - with both quantity and price unknown - and as we are running a current account deficit - that can only happen by further offshore borrowing by definition so we are planning to borrow money offshore to purchase credits offshore to offset emissions that simply do not exist.

It s very difficult to comprehend how we could get ourselves into this crazy situation.

We need also to reflect that if NZ with a low level of industrialisation, a high level of plantation forestry and an already very high renewables electricity generating sector has to purchase credits to meet it's targets - not 2050 but currently, which countries are going to have credits for sale ?

Simple answer is of course none !

Yes peak loon is approaching - but I think that's being a bit tough on the loons - quite a nice waterfowl.

"First thing to understand with Agricultural emissions is that they are measured on a Gross basis and do not net off the massive CO2 absorption by grasslands and crops used in their production"

If you left the grass growing...fine. But cropping the grass with cows or whatever relases the carbon. So sorry...your theory dont work.

What small vision some people have. NZ can once more be on the cutting edge of developing biotechnology that can be sold around the world. The alternative is "do nothing" stagnation, let the market take care of it. Lots of evidence that THAT strategy works ;-)

1) Carbon emissions from farming should be included in the ETS.

2) Yes, on a net rather than gross basis if this is scientifically justified

3) Farming carbon emission can be transitioned from 0% to 100% ETS - it doesn't have to be in 1 hit, e.g. 10% per year.

4) NZ needs to follow an efficient path to decarbonize. The government should open up international carbon credits again for purchase, but act as the intermediary and make only real (not fake) international credits available

5) In relation to a comment above tourists will eventually be captured when carbon pricing is applied to air travel. Otherwise there is already a carbon ETS tax on fuel in NZ.

6) Antonymouse is spreading fake news. Atmospheric carbon dioxide levels have not been this high for millions of years

https://e360.yale.edu/features/how-the-world-passed-a-carbon-threshold-4...
https://climate.nasa.gov/climate_resources/24/graphic-the-relentless-ris...

So I'm spreading fake news kiwi_overseas.
Sure atmospheric CO2 is higher now than a long time, not millions of years.
CO2 levels follow an increase of temp. they do not cause the rise.
CO2 is a greenhouse gas, but with very minimal effect.

Regarding the solar minimum, read this by Martin Armstrong and do watch the 3 min video by NASA showing that the sun is cooling.
https://www.armstrongeconomics.com/world-news/climate/the-sun-is-cooling...

These videos by Tony Heller shows the corruptness of NASA and NOAA
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zuP5ZD3vaJU
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j1hg-koV1T0

@ antonymous.

Climate change has happened many times in the past, but never, ever has it happened this quickly. That's what makes this climate change event unique.

Consider the source. This Sacha Dobler preys on gullible people to fund his wacky right-wing paranoid conspiracy theories. Along with being a climate change denier I note that he's also an intolerant bigot.

Rubbish. It was warming at a faster rate pre WW2 than it is now. The melt water pulse is a good example of rapid climate change that makes out benign climate look boring.

“This period, known as the “last deglaciation,” included episodes of abrupt climate change, such as the Bølling warming [~14.7–14.5 ka], when Northern Hemisphere temperatures increased by 4–5°C in just a few decades [Lea et al., 2003; Buizert et al., 2014], coinciding with a 12–22 m sea level rise in less than 340 years [3.5 to 6.5 meters per century] (Meltwater Pulse 1a (MWP1a)) [Deschamps et al., 2012].”

wow you must spend hours looking for obscure items and then use them out of context.

Meanwhile in the real world the frequency of damage and cost due to extreme weather events is getting worse and worse.

https://climatecrock.files.wordpress.com/2018/04/2018billallstorms.jpg?w...

Steven if your - data - isn't adjusted for GDP it is meaningless. When adjusted for GDP (bigger buildings and stuff in the hurricanes path compared to yesteryear):

2017 ranks 2nd to 2005;
The dataset is dominated by US hurricanes (accounting for about 70% of losses);
The trend from 1990 to 2017 is downward;
Mean and median are both 0.24%;
6 of past 10 years have been below average;

https://theclimatefix.files.wordpress.com/2018/01/1990-2017-disgdp2.jpg?...

antonymouse,

Your comments betray a total lack of understanding of basics physics and chemistry. The GHGs indeed make up less than 1% of the atmosphere,the most abundant being water vapour followed by CO2. Without them however,global temperatures would be some 33C lower and most life on earth would not exist,so they are exceedingly important. It is very simple;adding CO2 to the atmosphere raises the earth's temperature,no ifs,no buts.It has to do with the specific wavelengths at which the sun's energy is re-emitted from earth.
So the sun is cooling? Over the next few billion years,that is certainly correct,but now,I don't think so. Can you explain just what is causing glaciers to melt worldwide? what is causing Arctic temps to increase so quickly? Ditto for the West Antarctic peninsula?
Actually,given your post,i know i am wasting my time.Fortunately,the ranks of GW deniers are gradually thinning-you are increasingly irrelevant.

"Tony Heller" gives his layman opinion and this is what you follow?

Steven Goddard (pseudonym for Tony Heller) is a blogger and the publisher of "Real Science,"

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steven_Goddard

and,

https://www.desmogblog.com/steven-goddard

A fundamental issue for agriculture in the ETS is the elasticity of emissions. If there is today no known technology that allows the reduction of ruminant emissions at any cost - then a tax can only be effective by reducing outputs.

This would then impact on our export incomes of which we always be in dire need of given the very high levels of foreign liabilities accumulated from running current account deficits for over 47 consecutive years.

We are a highly indebted nation by many measures and a tax on our primary export income earners would be most unwise with very serious consequences.

JB,
There are also high risks to NZ agriculture through synthetic meats which will be much cheaper to produce at industrial scale. I hope Fonterra is watching & diversifying.

It will be painful but NZ cannot bank on continuing to live mainly off exports of agricultural goods into the future.

The exchange rate will have to fall to compensate until we find other products with comparative advantage.

Totally agree - a far closer threat is the move away from meat to vegetables particularly in mature economies.

Happening now - but it's a big big world out there and there will always be a market segment that wants our meat products and are prepared to pay premium prices.

Soy beans are just such a cheaper and healthier protein - not everyone's cup of tea - but then not everyone can afford lamb cutlets for dinner.

"Per head of capita New Zealanders sit at 23rd of 188 nations on 16.62 metric tonnes of CO2e. The much criticised China is 8.49 and India 2.28. The World average per capita is 6.27."

wow there.

Just for a moment consider that NZ produces food for 20million but has a population of < 5million.

So as a very rough calculation NZ's true CO2 per capita is actually 25% of that 16.62, or 4 (ish) the other 12 is consumed by the 16million ppl overseas.

Now lets say NZ drops its food production to only feed itself. Those 16million still need feeding so the food is produced elsewhere. The big IF here is if NZ produces more food for less CO2 that anyone else the result is while NZ looks good for CO2 globally we are worse off so that looks plain dumb.

Now I am not sure how good my numbers are and how right it is, but I'd like to find out.

Why would you think we can prodcue food with less carbon emitted than other countries. Our farming is energy reliant, much imported and then needs exporting?

This is why we have a carbon scheme which needs to go global. If we use too much carbon in producing goods, those goods become too expensive to produce. So if NZ ag uses less carbon then say the US, our ag products become cheaper. The sytem is set up, the will is lacking.

By taking in so many foreign immigrant citizens off foreign countries books, we should get a credit for their carbon emissions.

We've imported a lot of people from countries with miniscule per capita carbon footprints. When they come to NZ and adopt a western lifestyle, the total global emissions of the planet increase.

This goes someway to explain soil carbon and why it is/isn't used in carbon credit situations.
https://www.pggrc.co.nz/files/1499904102107.pdf

If the soil has been depleted of carbon by being used for intensive cropping for a number of years, it seems possible to graze it with cattle and have the methane emissions offset by sequestering carbon in the depleted soil. That stops once the soil is saturated with as much carbon as it can hold.

Of course methane is only a worse climate gas than carbon because of the 100 year time frame used - methane is gone in a few years whereas carbon is around for centuries.

That’s a great comment. Would love to see the govt do the science on exactly how many people our agri industry feeds outside NZ and therefore our true emissions but suspect it doesn’t fit the narrative.

So you'd be willing also for NZ to accept responsibility for the emissions caused by the manufacture of the goods that we import?

That would actually be the fairest way of doing it - if emissions were accounted for at the point of consumption, not production. After all, the OPEC countries aren't accountable for all the fossil fuels they export. Likewise for carbon taxes - if there was accurate carbon footprints for any goods and carbon taxes were internationally applied, then they might be effective.

Definitely.

If we reduce stock numbers then they will certainly increase somewhere else in the world - most likely stripping rain forest to convert to grazing land so with much greater GHG emissions.

But as long as 'sounds good" that is all we need to do these days with Greens in Govt.

What, you mean like exactly as it was done here??

Get out of your hut Pocket, there is plenty left. I live in the middle of Pureora. Its huge. Most nzers dont know it exists.

Maybe you should visit a organic farm, a farm forestry farm , or even a small conventional farm. You will see it is possible to farm with similar efficiency, whilst using less inputs, increase soil health and carbon levels , and reduce nutrient runoff. And make more money. If you don't want to see these (green loonies) , check out Massey or Lincolns work , showing it can be done.
The Greens don't hate farming , nor are they out to shut farming down. If you care to actually read their policies you will see that .