Tuesday, 19 November 2019 11:55

A lesson in political science

Written by  Peter Burke
Beef + Lamb NZ’s chief executive Sam McIvor. Beef + Lamb NZ’s chief executive Sam McIvor.

The Zero Carbon Bill has just been passed into law, but not without significant misgivings from across the farming sector.

Most of these concerns centre on the target for methane, with one farming leader describing it as ‘political science’.

Federated Farmers vice president Andrew Hoggard described the passing of the Bill as “a sad day for common sense” by failing to take on board suggestions for its improvement.

He said the Government had a golden opportunity to pass a Bill that was fit for purpose which could have taken a bipartisan approach to climate change and taken farmers along as well. 

“The coalition Government not only walked away from an important part of our commitment to the 2015 Paris Agreement, which requires all its signatories not to forsake food production for climate goals, but also relinquished the opportunity to be true leaders and adopt targets for methane which truly reflect its actual warming impact,” Hoggard said. 

“The 2050 24-47% reduction target for biogenic methane remains eye-wateringly hard for farmers to achieve and correspondingly dire for our economy to withstand.” 

Hoggard was also “deeply worried” by a comment made during the debate on the Bill by Labour MP and former head of the environment select committee, Deborah Russell, who questioned the usefulness of New Zealand’s ability to produce food. He says the Paris Agreement specifically recognises the “fundamental priority of safeguarding food security” and policies to address climate change should “not threaten food production”.

“Cutting food production in New Zealand does not stop people eating, it merely hands production and jobs to international competitors, such as the heavily subsidised European Union’s farmers, who will produce the same amount of product, only less efficiently and with higher greenhouse gas emissions.” 

Hoggard says with the current tools farmers have, the only way to meet the top end of the target (47%) is to halve the size of our livestock sector. Even if some of those tools become available they are not universally going to fit into all farming systems.

“Forcing NZ farmers to reduce production is not only going to make NZ poorer, but will likely increase global emissions, so we will effectively be shooting ourselves in both feet.” 

Beef + Lamb NZ’s chief executive Sam McIvor says his organisation will continue to push for science-based methane targets. He says while the Bill provides certainty for farmers about the framework for emissions, sheep and beef farmers are disappointed the methane targets remain unchanged.

“We support many elements of the Zero Carbon Bill, however we remain unhappy with the 24-47% methane target range as this is based on an international report that clearly stated it should not be used on an individual country basis.”

He claims this range will mean that methane will be used to “cool” the planet while other gases are just being expected to provide no additional warming. That’s not fair or equitable, he says.

McIvor welcomes Climate Change Minister James Shaw’s indications that as part of the legislation, the Independent Climate Change Commission has the power to review the range as part of its process. 

“Beef + Lamb NZ will continue to press for this to happen as soon as possible,” he said.

More like this

Feds’ election wish list

Federated Farmers has released its election manifesto, advising the incoming government on the policies farmers want.

From meat to wool!

Former Beef+Lamb chair James Parsons has been elected as chair of Wools of New Zealand (WNZ).

Carbon zero milk

Fonterra has joined forces with a supermarket chain to deliver what it claims is NZ’s first carbon zero milk.



Limited feed puts ewes at risk

Severe feed shortages in parts of the country mean many ewes are on a nutritional knife-edge heading into lambing and could be at risk of developing metabolic disorders.

Jack’s unique solution

Jason Jack was left with severe spinal injuries after a wakeboarding accident when he was 29, but that hasn’t stopped him getting out and about in difficult environments.


A ticking time bomb

Our dairy industry risks being exposed to a ‘ticking time bomb’ of unethical players unlawfully passing off New Zealand-made and…

Nervous wait for winter

The unknown of what winter will bring is very much on the mind of the Hawkes Bay Rural Support Trust…

Be careful, Potatoes NZ!

Moves by the NZ potato industry to have anti-dumping tariffs imposed on European imports could play into the hands of…

China keeps dairy prices high

Whole milk powder (WMP) prices are now sitting above pre-Covid-19 levels and New Zealand farmers can thank a resurging Chinese…

Machinery & Products

Hydrogen excavator a first

While most motive industries are focused on hybrid or EV power plants, JCB has developed the construction industry’s first hydrogen-powered…

Jack’s unique solution

Jason Jack was left with severe spinal injuries after a wakeboarding accident when he was 29, but that hasn’t stopped…

HP and digital tech combo

The latest New Holland T8 GENESIS is said to capitalise on the productive combinations of Stage V horsepower and digital…

» The RNG Weather Report

» Latest Print Issues Online

The Hound

Spell check

Your old mutt was not surprised to see the NZ Dairy Industry Awards hastily remove the title of this year’s…

About time!

Your canine crusader has been a long-time critic of NZ governments – of all stripes – who, for the past…

» Connect with Rural News

» eNewsletter

Subscribe to our weekly newsletter