Net zero needs more trees
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.
Federated Farmers vice-president Andrew Hoggard says transport should be the focus of carbon reductions.