12 Oct 2022

Farm-level emissions pricing plan 'utterly unacceptable' - Christopher Luxon

11:34 am on 12 October 2022
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Green co-leader James Shaw, National's Christopher Luxon and ACT's David Seymour. Photo: RNZ / Angus Dreaver

The government is celebrating its agricultural emissions pricing plan as a world-first, but it faces a battle winning over the sector, and few other political parties are entirely satisfied with it.

The emissions pricing plan is the government's response to He Waka Eke Noa, a partnership between government agencies and the sector.

The government has proposed bringing in split-gas farm-level emissions pricing from 2025 in a world-first scheme.

While the government accepted most of the recommendations, a key difference is that Cabinet will set the levies farmers will pay, rather than an independent group with some members selected by the industry.

National Party leader Christopher Luxon said the government's plan undermined the industry consensus.

"We acknowledge that we have to reduce agriculture emissions," Luxon told Morning Report.

"What we've said is we would support introducing agricultural pricing.

"The question of how you do that is really important. You have to pace that with the technological advances that are coming and then synch it up with that."

"The thing that I find really, really disturbing is that we're going to get rid of one-fifth of our sheep and beef farmers by 2030, in less than seven years," Luxon claimed.

The government acknowledges the plan will be harder for beef and sheep farmers - and it could possibly lead to a 21 percent decrease in revenue by 2030.

Pressed on whether National, if put into government next year, would bring the levy in by 2025, Luxon said he would support what farmers want.

"We want the industry to be able to develop its own solution. We will support whatever the industry wants.

"I trust farmers. I understand that they get this issue.

"What the government proposed yesterday is utterly, utterly unacceptable."

The government is asking farmers to get involved with six weeks of consultation before final proposals including the price go to Cabinet for sign-off next year.

ACT's primary industries spokesperson Mark Cameron said the plan could lead to production being shifted offshore to less climate-efficient nations - leading to more emissions.

And he predicts the scheme will be a hot topic in election year.

"Farmers and rural people seem to be jumping through rings of fire to mitigate all manner of things quite often when the problems are ill-defined and the solutions are equally so.

"So I think it could have a significant knock-on effect to the outcome of the election."

On the other end of the spectrum, Climate Change Minister James Shaw of the Green Party admitted it was not exactly what he wanted.

Shaw was keen to put a cap on emissions, and have emissions pricing sit independent from ministers.

"I think it could be more robust and a system that uses an absolute cap is the most robust you could have.

"However, something that isn't going to be up and running on time and could be easily dismantled is not going to deliver you the emissions reductions that you need."

Shaw fears government setting the prices risks the process being vulnerable to lobbying.

"We've seen in the past where in a change of government that then will side with the sector, you could see something we've set up being dismantled a couple of years down the track.

"And of course that doesn't achieve our goals either."

National's agriculture spokesperson Barbara Kuriger said there needed to be a consensus reached with the sector, before farmers became an election-year political football.

"We've never really come down hard and fast on all the variables around He Waka Eke Noa.

"All we've said is that the industry could negotiate something that they wanted with the government then we will support it.

"Unfortunately it's kind of got to a point today where there's just a few people that are just a bit upset about where it's got to."

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern yesterday said the government was committed to building a system that worked for farmers.

"We will continue to work in partnership to drive as much consensus as possible to ensure we have a system that lasts the distance," she said.

"Cutting emissions will help New Zealand farmers to not only be the best in the world but the best for the world; gaining a price premium for climate friendly agricultural products while also helping to boost export earnings."

The consultation period ends on 18 November.

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