Net zero needs more trees

Sunday Star-Times - - NEWS - ANUJA NADKARNI

More trees will need to be planted in or­der to hit net zero emis­sions by 2050, ac­cord­ing to Cli­mate Change Min­is­ter James Shaw.

New govern­ment-com­mis­sioned re­search projects an ad­di­tional 10 per cent of land will need to be re­for­ested to achieve the tar­get.

Crit­ics worry the Govern­ment’s Zero Car­bon Bill – out for public con­sul­ta­tion on Thurs­day – will leave the farm­ing com­mu­nity feel­ing ‘‘be­sieged’’.

And Massey Univer­sity pro­fes­sor of en­ergy re­search Ralph Sims said the path to zero emis­sions would be ‘‘in­cred­i­bly dif­fi­cult’’. ‘‘Plant­ing trees is only a short term op­tion. Once you keep plant­ing trees and end up with the en­tire coun­try cov­ered in trees, what do you do?’’

The leg­is­la­tion set­ting out the strat­egy for the 2050 net zero emis­sions tar­get will be in­tro­duced to Par­lia­ment this year.

The Zero Car­bon Act would es­tab­lish an In­de­pen­dent Cli­mate Change Com­mis­sion (an in­terim one is in place) which will de­velop five-year rolling car­bon bud­gets out­lin­ing how each sec­tor of the econ­omy would meet green­house gas re­duc­tion tar­gets.

Sims said the only op­tion was to move away from an­i­mal prod­ucts.

‘‘It means we’re go­ing to have to make some ma­jor changes. For car­bon diox­ide we know we need to re­duce oil and gas re­serves.

‘‘And for agri­cul­tural emis­sions we can hope sci­ence gives us some op­tions to re­duce the amount of meth­ane, oth­er­wise we have to move away from the in­dus­try.

‘‘This tar­get can ab­so­lutely kill in­dus­tries.’’

Na­tional leader Si­mon Bridges said the tar­get had caused anx­i­ety among farm­ers . ‘‘The farm­ers have had it hard, with David Parker’s cap­ping of cow num­bers and pulling out of the ir­ri­ga­tion fund. Farm­ers feel be­sieged. We need a thought-through phased plan that doesn’t un­duly dis­rupt our econ­omy and our peo­ple.’’

Fed­er­ated Farm­ers vice-pres­i­dent An­drew Hog­gard said farm­ers felt un­der at­tack af­ter the my­coplasma bo­vis out­break, and the fo­cus needed to be on re­duc­ing emis­sions through transport use. ‘‘It seems like ev­ery man and his dog is do­ing some­thing on cli­mate change,’’ he ex­plained. ‘‘To reach the zero car­bon tar­get we’re go­ing to need to see tech­no­log­i­cal in­no­va­tions. It’s re­ally go­ing to come down to sci­ence.’’

But Shaw said the zero emis­sions tar­get (part of the Paris Cli­mate Change Agree­ment) could make New Zealand a world leader in farm­ing. ‘‘In New Zealand we’ve often thought about ac­tion on cli­mate change be­ing a sunk cost. But it may ac­tu­ally be our com­pet­i­tive ad­van­tage,’’ he said.

DAVID UNWIN / STUFF

Fed­er­ated Farm­ers vice-pres­i­dent An­drew Hog­gard says transport should be the fo­cus of car­bon re­duc­tions.

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