Wednesday, 21 August 2019 13:55

Climate report gives much needed detail

Written by  Pam Tipa
DairyNZ chief executive Dr Tim Mackle. DairyNZ chief executive Dr Tim Mackle.

The latest IPCC Special Report has the potential to turn the way we look at climate change on its head, says DairyNZ chief executive Dr Tim Mackle.

It highlights the challenges of providing sustainable food for a growing population and says animal sourced food from sustainable systems has a role to play.

The IPCC Special Report, released this month, is a “welcome contribution” to the developing debate on climate, says Mackle.

New Zealand in 2015 co-sponsored a proposal for a Special Report on Climate Change, Food and Agriculture. 

“The 2019 report has arrived at an opportune time as NZ works out how to play its part in tackling climate change and what it might mean for our agricultural sector and our economy,” Mackle says.

“In October 2018, the IPCC Special Report on the impacts of global warming by 1.5°C turned on its head the way policymakers viewed climate change. 

“This new report has the potential to do the same as it highlights some of the challenges and opportunities of providing sustainable food for a growing global population,” says Mackle. 

The world’s population is forecast by the United Nations to grow from 7.7 billion now to 9.7b by 2050. 

“As world leaders in the efficient production of high quality, nutritious, pasture based, low emissions milk, NZ has a huge role to play in showing what a sustainable system can deliver.

“The report highlights how much the science is still developing, especially in agricultural emissions, which again demonstrates that a prudent approach for NZ is needed.

“DairyNZ is fully behind playing our part on climate change and supporting our farmers to take action. We need to take some time, however, to fully digest this report and how it might be applied in a NZ context.”

The report recommends ways to mitigate and adapt to climate change, many already happening, eg planting trees, maintaining good soil carbon and low input, well managed grazing.   

Agriculture and livestock farming have a role to play in addressing climate change, the report says. It identifies sustainably produced livestock products from sustainable, low greenhouse gas emission farming systems as helping solve the problem.

“Balanced diets [could contain] plant based foods such as those based on coarse grains, legumes, fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds, and animal sourced food produced in resilient, sustainable and low-GHG emission systems.”

The deputy director of the New Zealand Agricultural Greenhouse Gas Research Centre, Dr Andy Reisinger, says the report shows NZ is not alone in the challenges it faces. 

“Many of the issues, eg how to reduce emissions, make our land more resilient to climate change and how to achieve the best outcomes across the landscape are shared by governments worldwide. That’s why they asked the IPCC to prepare this report.

“A key message from the report for me is the need for integrated responses that comprise not just how we produce food but stretch across the food and energy system. This is critical to improve resilience globally and to ensure we use land in a way that can feed people and reduce net emissions.”

The report doesn’t tell us what NZ’s role should be globally but it tells us what to keep an eye on in the bigger picture, he says.

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