The Northland Age
Kaitaia protest part of NZ-wide action
Around 200 people gathered in their utes, cars and a couple of tractors in Kaitaia last week in protest of the Government’s new livestock emissions plan.
The crowd, mainly made up of local farmers, met outside of Kaitaia’s Te Ahu Centre on Thursday, to take part in the nationwide “We’re Not Going to Take It” national protest by Groundswell NZ.
The protest was a pushback against a world-first scheme that proposes all farmers should pay for agricultural emissions, in some form, by 2025.
The scheme marks a significant step in a decades-long process to account for agriculture in climate change policy, which is said to make up half of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions.
A protester and former beef farmer, who did not wish to be named, said her main concern was food disappearing if the tax was enforced.
“Our economy depends on the farming sector, so if the Government knocked back farming by even 20 per cent, where are we going to get our food from?” the woman said.
“New Zealand is very efficient at farming, so we don’t have our animals indoors in winter like they do in Europe.
“The Government also signed the Paris Accord which said anything to do with emissions would not penalise food production, but it seems they’ve taken that back now.
“That’s why we’re so upset.” Danny Simms of Mangonui owns a beef farm in Ahipara and believed
the science behind the Government’s proposal was misinformed and inaccurate.
He claimed the theory behind livestock emissions was ‘a whole crock of rubbish from one end to the other’ and has written two papers on the matter.
According to Simms, the fundamental questions people should be asking were a) where were emissions produced by livestock coming from and b) what impact, if any, were they having on the environment.
“The reality is livestock are not putting anything back into the atmosphere that hasn’t already been there,” Simms claimed.
“The net effect of livestock on the atmosphere is less than nil and that’s what really annoys me about everyone
in this country, including our farming leaders, who have failed to take into account carbon dioxide taken up by pasture.
“The ruminant portion of the methane sink — which is continually recycled as methane and converted back into its constituent parts, CO2 and H2O — is not increasing,” he alleged.
“No life would exist on this planet in the absence of CO2, it is the building block of all life and absolutely no green thing would grow without it.”
The Government’s proposed plan of action for farmers to reduce their greenhouse emissions is now open for consultation.
The proposal has largely adopted the farming sector’s recommendations to price emissions at the farm
level and has proposed modifications in the consultation document based on advice from the Climate Change Commission.
Groundswell organiser Bryce McKenzie described the proposal to price farming emissions as the country’s “nuclear moment” — an echo of Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s description of climate change. McKenzie previously called the emissions pricing an “assault on food production and rural communities”.
Honorary Professor Troy Baisden, Te Pū naha Matatini principal investigator, Motu Affiliate, and University of Auckland School of Environment, said New Zealand was seeing difficult choices emerge as the Government considered competing proposals to be implemented by 2025, with meaningful reductions by 2030.
Baisden said the Government could look at giving farmers credit for trees and other vegetation on their land, yet this could be hard to calculate and verify.
He said credit for sequestration could be worthwhile if it reduced the expensive purchase of emissions reductions New Zealand bought offshore or through the planting of carbon forests that locked up land.
The reduction of nitrous oxide reduction, however, was something he believed farmers could start to manage now.
“While many argue simply for reducing fertiliser, nitrogen fertiliser directly contributes only a small proportion of total nitrous oxide emissions from pastures.
“Fertiliser and other nitrogen inputs, including feed and fixation from legumes such as clover, contribute to more pasture growth and commonly provide animals with more nitrogen than they can utilise.
“Farmers have management tools available to them now to reduce emissions through improved efficiency.
“The cost borne by farmers of maintaining emissions will be discounted initially, but the value of reducing gross emissions will matter at its face value, estimated to be over $100 per tonne CO2-e in our national accounts, on either side of the splitgas ledger.”
Farmers and growers have the opportunity to ask questions about the Government’s proposals to price agricultural greenhouse gas emissions at several open online webinars. Sessions will run today and again on Monday, October 31.