24 Nov 2021

Proposals to price agricultural emissions a failure, say environmental groups

7:59 am on 24 November 2021

Environmental groups are calling on the government to shelve options for pricing agricultural greenhouse gas emissions proposed by the partnership of primary sector organisations.

Canterbury region farms

The agricultural sector has proposed two options for pricing on-farm emissions. Photo: RNZ / Nate McKinnon

In 2019 the government announced the sector would have to start paying for emissions from 2025, and the industry was given time to develop a way to measure and price them.

The government said if no credible alternative was put forward agriculture would be put into the Emissions Trading Scheme.

He Waka Eke Noa - Primary Sector Climate Action Partnership, which includes Beef and Lamb New Zealand, Federated Farmers and DairyNZ, has released a discussion document with two options for farmers to pay for on-farm emissions.

Farmers will consider the options, an on-farm level levy and a processor-level hybrid levy, before a preferred option is presented to the government in April next year.

Forest & Bird climate advocate Geoff Keey said neither option would cut emissions.

"He Waka Eke Noa had one job, to come up with an emissions reduction plan for agriculture that would cut emissions. They have completely failed," he said.

Keey noted the discussion document said initial modelling suggested the prices would lead to reductions in total agricultural emissions of less than 1 percent reduction in both CH4 and N2O below 2017 levels, additional to reductions as a result of other environmental policies.

"The agriculture industry has had over thirty years to deal with its climate problem. Once again they've failed, and now the government needs to get on with the job agri-business won't do, and put them in an improved ETS."

Both proposed options have a split gas approach which would see farmers pay one price for carbon and a second price for methane.

Keey said a cheaper price on methane emissions would lock in state-subsidised farming.

Greenpeace also called on the government to walk away from He Wake Eke Noa, calling the partnership a failure.

"The He Waka Eke Noa voluntary partnership with big agribusiness polluters is like a round-table of foxes discussing security measures for the hen house," group campaigner Christine Rose said.

"The dairy industry has shown that it will always resist measures to reduce emissions, this proposal is just more of the same deflection and deferral and doesn't stack up."

The government must get real and put rules in place that will actually reduce emissions, she said.

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