1 Oct 2019

'It makes sense for NZ to take leadership role on agricultural emissions' - PM

10:51 am on 1 October 2019

Farmers can expect to hear soon how much they will have to pay for their agricultural emissions over the next five years, the prime minister says.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. 26 November 2018

Jacinda Ardern says the government will shortly share details on how the agricultural emissions scheme will work both before and after 2025. Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

Jacinda Ardern took to the world stage last week and declared that New Zealand is "determined" to be the most sustainable food producer in the world.

But now she's back from the UN Climate Action Summit in New York, she faces the formidable task of forging political consensus on how best to cut agricultural emissions.

Under a plan being considered by the government, farmers would incur some of the costs of their emissions under a levy-rebate system by 2025, and possibly via the Emissions Trading Scheme earlier.

Federated Farmers' bi-annual confidence survey, released in August, showed farmers are becoming increasingly worried about how climate change policy might affect them.

Nearly a quarter of 1432 farmers who took part in the July survey cited climate change policy and the Emissions Trading Scheme as their number one worry (23.6 percent). It's the first time since 2010 the issue has been listed by respondents as the most pressing overall.

The same month, the Interim Climate Change Committee released a report that included a proposal to introduce the agricultural sector to the ETS by 2025.

It also proposed introducing a farm-level levy/rebate scheme.

Consultation on the discussion document closed in August. The document included the New Zealand First deal for a 95 percent discount for farmers.

Ms Ardern told Morning Report the committee's recent report said it would take until 2025 to get the infrastructure in place for a farm-by-farm pricing mechanism and measuring mechanism in place.

The government had worked hard with the farming community and leaders to ensure 2025 could be the goal.

There would be an announcement soon on what would happen before 2025, however, she had not heard any suggestion that farmers would have "some kind of loose self-regulation post-2025".

"I want to point to the historic agreement that's been reached around agricultural pricing mechanisms and farm-by-farm from 2025 which again I do think we should acknowledge is world-leading and for the purposes of us being able to trade with confidence, and point out to the world that we are sustainable food producers because that is going to affect whether or not consumers want our products.

"So it makes sense for us to actually take a leadership role here. We will benefit economically if we do so."

Grazing cows in green meadow of hilly countryside during sunset in new zealand

The government is still working on the pricing details of its emissions trading scheme that will impact on farmers. Photo: 123RF

Business confidence at 10-year low

The latest business confidence survey, ANZ Business Outlook, for August showed a net 54 percent of businesses expect conditions to deteriorate in the year ahead, from 52 percent last month.

It's at the lowest level in more than a decade.

Ms Ardern said the fundamentals of the economy were sound and New Zealand's quarterly and annual GDP are outstripping countries we compare ourselves to.

She did not rule out further fiscal stimulus, however, there had been considerable infrastructure investment covering health, education and transport in the last Budget and these benefits would take some time to work their way through the economy.

"I won't rule out us looking at additional infrastructure in the future, but we have already made considerable investment in this area."

Its economic plan released recently covered R&D tax credits, making skilled employees available for businesses, write-offs on investment for future projects.

"We are hearing things we can do that might give a bit more confidence to invest, to explore new business plans and ideas..."

She pointed out that during 3 percent growth under the last Labour government, 80 percent of the time there was "pretty negative business confidence", so the country needed to be careful not to talk ourselves "into a funk".

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