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B+LNZ supports Commission advice

THE Climate Change Commission's advice last week that New Zealand must cut gross carbon dioxide emissions was encouraging, but still far too many exotic trees were forecast to be planted on productive farmland, said Sam McIvor from Beef and Lamb New Zealand.

The organisation's chief executive said while B+LNZ still need to carefully read 400-odd pages of the final advice, they support the Commission telling the Government that New Zealand must reduce its reliance on forestry offsets, in particular from pinus radiata.

“However, the recommended levels of carbon removed by trees is still too high and will lead to swathes of New Zealand sheep and beef farmland being converted to pine trees,” Sam said.

“This will have significant negative impacts for sheep and beef farming and rural communities with knock-on effects for every New Zealand household.

“B+LNZ welcomes the Commission's strengthened advice on the need to change the NZ Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) to manage afforestation, which is something we have been advocating for and the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment also recommended in his submission.

“It's critical there are strict limits on the amount of offsetting fossil-fuel emitters can do by planting exotic trees,” he said.

“B+LNZ asks the Government for specific policy proposals on this as a matter of urgency.”

B+LNZ was pleased the Commission continues to endorse the ‘split-gas' approach domestically to treat short-lived and long-lived greenhouse gases differently to reflect the fact that different gases have different warming impacts on the atmosphere, Mr McIvor said.

“However, the sector is disappointed at the lack of recognition of the marginal impact methane-emitting sectors have had on the atmosphere for the past 20 years.

“The science is clear, methane emissions in New Zealand have contributed little additional warming since the early 2000s. Furthermore, methane emissions from sheep and beef production have decreased by about 30 percent since 1990.”

Mr McIvor said at the same time, warming from fossil-fuel emissions has increased significantly.

“The Climate Change Commission and the Government need to start reporting on the warming impact of the various gases so that the public can understand the different contribution each gas is making to climate change.

“In addition, a significant amount of carbon sequestration is happening on pastoral farmland, including land used for dairying. Farmers must be recognised for the good work they are doing on-farm.

“Methane-emitting sectors are being asked to continue to do more, and faster, in the short-term to compensate for other sectors who have not acted — that is inequitable, especially considering that sheep and beef farmers have already achieved significant reductions.

“While we acknowledge the Commission has taken on board B+LNZ's feedback on the assumptions used in the modelling, we believe the modelling underpinning the advice from the Commission may still be overly optimistic in terms of the future emissions reductions our sector can make.”

Mr McIvor said B+LNZ was also concerned the Commission was recommending the Government implement measures that would lead to a 12 percent reduction of biogenic methane emissions on 2017 levels. “This represents a 20 percent increase in the level of ambition compared to the 2030 biogenic methane target in the Zero Carbon Act, which is to reduce methane emissions to 10 percent below 2017 levels by 2030.

“The agriculture sector is consolidating its actions to reduce emissions but this represents a shift in the goal posts on a target that is already too high. We are also concerned by references to livestock numbers needing to decrease by 13 percent by 2030, and references to an effective loss of grazing land of 20 percent of the area afforested with native forests.

“B+LNZ is pleased the Commission has recognised the important role of He Waka Eke Noa, the Primary Sector Climate Action Partnership, to implement a framework by 2025 to reduce agricultural greenhouse gas emissions and build the agriculture sector's resilience to climate change. As one of the key partners to the partnership, B+LNZ is fully committed to its success,” he said.

“Beef and Lamb NZ supports the Commission's recommendations that the Government's environmental policy development must be more integrated across all environmental domains, and in particular freshwater, biodiversity, soils and climate change. We will now be seeking urgent talks with the Government as it finalises the budgets and develops its emissions reduction plan for agriculture and forestry.”

INITIAL SUPPORT: B+LNZ have given initial support to the Climate Change Commission's stance on the amount of exotic forestry going on to productive farmland around the country, but it has yet to work through the full 400-page advice provided by the Commission last week. File picture