National got a positive reception to its far emissions proposals yesterday, with the two key agricultural sector organisations, DairyNZ and Beef and LambNZ, welcoming them.

National’s Agriculture spokesperson Todd McClay says National’s proposal would:

  • Give farmers the tools they need to reduce emissions, including recognising on-farm sequestration, measuring farm-level emissions by 2025 and updating biotech rules.
  • Keep agriculture out of the ETS but implement a fair and sustainable pricing system for on-farm agricultural emissions by 2030 at the latest. An independent board – with a power of veto retained by the Ministers of Climate Change and Agriculture – will be established to implement the pricing system.
  • Limit the conversion of productive farmland to forestry for carbon farming purposes to protect local communities and food production.

The big news is the five-year delay in implementing the pricing system, but recent figures from StatsNZ suggest that farmers are on track to achieve the 10 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 that the Zero Carbon Act calls for without needing a pricing mechanism to incentivise them.

The proposal to limit the conversion of farmland to forestry may contradict the party’s resource management policy, where it has opposed the kind of centralisation implicit in the forestry proposal.

And there will also be questions about how the independent board will slot into the climate structure relative to the Climate Change Commission.

National is also promising to review the methane targets, which is picking up on recent work by former international climate change negotiator Adrian Macey and Victoria University climate change scientist Dave Frame who argue that the metric used to measure the warming potential of methane overstates its warming potential.

They have said that recent work by scientists has solved the problem by devising a different metric that very accurately replicates methane’s actual warming.

“It’s recognised in the latest IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) report,” they said.

.There is a provision in the Zero Carbon Act for that to happen.

Naitonal’s overall proposal would replace He Waka Eke Noa (HWEN), the partnership of 13 agricultural organisations which drew up a scheme which would have come into effect in 2025 to have farmers pay for their emissions.

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The two leading groups in HWEN were Beef and LambNZ and DairyNZ, and they both welcomed Naitonal’s proposal.

“The National Party’s climate change policy is closely aligned with the sheep and beef sector’s own position,” said Beef + Lamb New Zealand chair Kate Acland.

“Farmers have sent us a clear message that they are unhappy with the pricing proposal that the He Waka Eke Noa Primary Sector Climate Action Partnership put to Government last year.

“It would have disproportionately impacted the viability of our most extensive sheep and beef farmers.

“B+LNZ also supports a review of the methane targets based on the latest science and the warming impact of methane on the planet.”

“Today’s National Party announcement to delay agriculture emissions pricing until the technology is in place and targets reviewed is a step in the right direction,” said DairyNZ chair Jim van der Poel.

“If a New Zealand Government is going to price agricultural emissions, then the pricing system must be fair and practical for dairy farmers.

“DairyNZ will work with any government that is focused on reducing on-farm emissions and finding ways to help farmers achieve that in a practical and sensible way.

“Both technology and targets are an important part of getting a system right and ensuring agriculture plays its part. Pricing was looked at to facilitate the necessary behaviour change. Pricing will only achieve outcomes if cost-effective tools and technology are available.

“Before any emissions pricing system is introduced, there must be clarity about emissions targets and how any pricing mechanism will work, along with how all these factors work together. We must get the details right.”

Federated Farmers has been less supportive of HWEN than the two sector groups, and yesterday, it fully supported the National proposal.

“Federated Farmers gives the National Party climate policy announced today ‘five stars’, “ Fed Farmers  President Wayne Langford said.s.

“Last week, we released a rural roadmap outlining our 12 key policy priorities for restoring farmer confidence this election.

“That roadmap included a clear call for the next government to urgently review our methane reduction targets, support the better use of technologies, and to rethink our ETS forestry rules,” Langford said.

“We’re really pleased to see the National Party have picked up on those important issues and are making commitments to put in place solutions that will work for farmers.

The proposal did not get such a warm reception from the Prime Minister.

“The National Party seems to be treating the climate with contempt,” he said.

“They seem to be saying that they’re committed to net zero by 2050, but they seem to have absolutely no idea how they’re going to deliver on that and, in fact, have opposed every single thing that the government has been doing to help us achieve that goal.”  [00:14:52][15.0]

Hipkins committed to continuing the HWEN negotiations “ because we do believe that that is the way forward.”

But he did seem to open the door to some relaxation of the Genetic Engineering ban.

“Within the last month or two, I’ve asked the Prime Minister’s chief science adviser to do a little bit of thinking around this and give me some further advice on it,” he said.

“In terms of issues around gene editing, for example, I think there’s a legitimate discussion for us to have.

“I don’t think that we should go ploughing into it without carefully considering the implications of it, including the fact that a number of our export industries proudly put G.E. free on their label and actually make quite a lot of money from that.

“So I think we have to consider both the economics of it and also the science of it.”

These debates will continue all week as farmers and a veritable army of politicians head for Hamilton and the National Field Days.