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New Zealand's Zero Carbon Bill a Mixed Bag for Farmers

12 November 2019

New Zealand's Zero Carbon Bill is described as "mixed bag" for farmers, according to DairyNZ Chief Executive Dr Tim Mackle. He's urging all political parties to work together to find consensus on a pathway forward.

“The agricultural sector has engaged positively and constructively in this process over the past 18 months to help craft a piece of legislation that is both consistent with a 1.5-degree pathway and fair for farmers” Dr Mackle said.

“We support the key architecture in the Bill. This includes the establishment of an Independent Climate Change Commission, carbon budgeting and, in particular, a split gas approach that recognises methane is different to other greenhouse gasses”.

The key point of contention remains the methane reduction targets.

“Both farmers, officials, and politicians have sought a science-based target for methane, but the sheer breadth of differing scientific opinion and politics has ultimately made this a difficult exercise for all involved” Dr Mackle said.

“DairyNZ remain firmly opposed to the Governments methane reduction range of 24 – 47% as we believe it is out of step with what science requires and rural economies can sustain.

“That being said, sending the target to the Commission for review could be a pragmatic way to give everyone confidence that a scientifically sound approach has been taken.

“Farmers have never been afraid of the facts. They simply want a methane target that is fair and firmly grounded in the best available science, applied in a New Zealand context.

“We strongly encourage a review of the methane target by the Commission as early as possible – preferably by 2021 in time for the setting of the first emissions budgets” Dr Mackle said.

An independent Commission is best placed to explore the IPCC’s global scenarios, the assumptions they have made, and whether or not broadly aligning with the central range of these scenarios is an appropriate target for New Zealand’s biological methane from agriculture.

“Like any piece of legislation, there are elements that we would write differently if we were holding the pen - but it is time to move forward and focus on reducing emissions, not look backwards” Dr Mackle said.

“As we approach the final stages of the Zero Carbon Bill’s progression through the legislative process, we are calling on politicians of all parties to sharpen their focus and to be open to compromise that will ensure bipartisan support is achieved.

“We believe that achieving genuine bipartisan support is the best and only way to ensure this legislation is enduring.

“DairyNZ will now be focusing on supporting our farmers to reduce their emissions in a way that utilises emerging technology, leverages the competitive advantages of our pasture-based system, and underpins our global position.

“New Zealand dairy farmers are the most emissions efficient in the world. We have an international reputation for sustainability, and we want to keep it that way” Dr Mackle concluded.

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