A ‘farm-level’ approach to reducing and putting a price on emissions has been recommended by agricultural leaders in New Zealand, as farmers near a deadline to pay for their emissions.
He Waka Eke Noa recommends a split-gas approach to apply different levies on individual farms, which recognizes the different impacts between short and long-lived gas emissions.
Farmers would calculate their own short and long-lived gas emissions through a centralized calculator.
Those calculated on-farm emissions will determine the levy cost, instead of using national averages. That would mean if a farm reduced its emissions, that would be reflected in pricing. The report also recommended incentives for the uptake of different practices and technology to reduce emissions.
It would recognize if farms are offsetting emissions on the farm, which could also lower emission levies.
The money from collected levies would be invested into research, development, and education for the sector and it was recommended that there would be a dedicated fund for Māori landowners.
It also wanted an oversight board which would work with an independent Māori board to recommend levy rates and prices, and decide what to do with the levy revenue.
Chair Michael Ahie said the recommendations would have an expected methane reduction of 4 to 5.5%.
He said there will be some cost in implementing the recommendations, and throughout the consultation period there had been some “pretty robust and tricky conversation”.
However, he said throughout his time in the agricultural sector he had “never seen such collaboration”.
“We all firmly believe this is the best approach to price agricultural emissions.”
He said there was “no doubt putting 23,000 farmers into a system is complex”, so they would roll out the centralized calculator in a staged approach.
The Green Party came out against the recommendations shortly after, saying it left more questions than answers.
Agriculture spokesperson Teanau Tuiono said it was not clear “that the sector’s proposals will actually help them shift to low emissions and regenerative farming practices”.
“It looks like the sector has missed an opportunity to come up with a solid plan. It’s like they were given a hallway pass and used it to wag class.
“The report itself admits that further work is needed on many of its key proposals. Time is fast running out for the climate. There are only eight more lambing and calving seasons before the 2030 methane target deadline.”
ACT’s Mark Cameron said farmers shouldn’t be forced into any emissions pricing scheme until there is “credible and practical methane mitigation technologies available”.
“We’re pleased the Government hasn’t forged ahead with a brutal tax at the processor level, but if levers aren’t pulled to allow farmers to access the technology that can help them lower their emissions it will be pointless and amount to more costs on the sector that kept us afloat throughout the Covid pandemic.
“The Government’s primary focus has been on how to price emissions and get farmers to cough up more money, but they should have been more worried about how farmers can practically lower emissions through technological advancements without paying an extra tax.”
Greenpeace called the plan an “absolute lemon”, with Christine Rose saying the Government needed to “abandon the idea of industry self-regulation, bring agri-industry fully into the Emissions Trading Scheme and phase out the synthetic nitrogen fertilizer which drives agricultural emissions” .
She said the proposals are “a ham-fisted attempt to cook the books with unproven technofixes which don’t stack up”.
“There are no actual policies that will cut agricultural climate pollution in this proposal, and that’s not surprising given it’s the polluters themselves that have proposed it. The Government should biff this sham plan in the bin.”
Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor and Climate Change Minister James Shaw welcomed the report “which has been under way since the Government, farming leaders and Māori agreed to a world-first partnership to reduce primary sector emissions in 2019”.
“We will take time to carefully consider the report along with the upcoming advice from the Climate Change Commission on the proposals,” O’Connor said.
“The sector and the wider public will have the opportunity to provide their view before the Cabinet makes final decisions towards the end of the year on how to effectively price emissions.”
Shaw said there was “no question that we need to cut the amount of methane we are putting into the atmosphere, and an effective emissions pricing system for agriculture will play a key part in how we achieve that”.
In 2019, the Government gave farmers until 2025 to implement farm level pricing, as an alternative to putting agricultural emissions into the Emission Trading Scheme.