13 Jun 2023

Agreement on agricultural emissions plan still possible, Hipkins says

9:39 am on 13 June 2023
Prime Minister Chris Hipkins talks to journalists.

Chris Hipkins said he was confident they could hash out a deal but could not put a timeframe on it. Photo: VNP / Phil Smith

The prime minister is meeting with agriculture sector leaders at Fieldays this week and still thinks it will be possible to get an agreement on pricing agricultural emissions.

National has confirmed it will delay introducing a pricing plan by five years - until 2030 - if elected.

Agriculture makes up nearly half of New Zealand's greenhouse gas emissions and - unlike emissions from every other sector - are not priced.

A sector-led group called He Waka Eke Noa is currently working on how best to do this but its future is uncertain, given National last week walked back its support on account of the impact the proposed scheme might have on farming businesses.

Chris Hipkins said he was confident they could hash out a deal, but could not say it would happen before this year's election.

"I think it's really important that we continue to try and find a way of pricing greenhouse gas emissions caused by, you know through farming, in a way that's clear, transparent.

"While I accept that no one in the farming sector is going to run towards this as being their highest priority, there is an acknowledgement amongst many in the farming community that this is important."

New Zealand was not the only country to be struggling with the issue of dealing with emissions from the primary sector, he said.

New Zealand farmers access to export markets depended on action being taken to reduce climate emissions, Hipkins said.

Asked whether there was a timeline for the government laying out an emissions plan prior to the election, Hipkins said there would be progress in the next few months and more clarity before the election but it took time to ensure there was a workable plan.

"But I am confident we will be able to get something that will work and the farming community will be able to make work."

Hipkins rejected the idea that He Waka Eke Noa had failed.

"I don't believe it has failed, I believe it's hard, it was always going to be hard and it continues to be hard but that doesn't mean we've given up on it. We're absolutely still committed to it."

Hipkins said if Labour wins the election the current Emissions Trading Scheme would remain in place as a backstop, but he was confident agreement could be reached and something else could be put in place in the meantime.

National Party agriculture spokesperson Todd McClay said the farming sector needed to be properly prepared before farmers had to start paying for agricultural emissions.

Currently farmers only option to reducing methane emissions was to take stock off their land, McClay said.

"If we force farmers to destock before there are things that they can use, new sciences, biotechnology and so on, all that happens is that New Zealand becomes poorer and that production goes to countries overseas that are not as carbon efficient as our farmers do."

National agrees that New Zealand must meet its carbon targets for 2030 and 2050, but in order to do that a plan is needed which works for farmers and does not put them out of business, he said.

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