15 Dec 2015

NZ's largest farmer makes climate pledge

8:51 am on 15 December 2015

State-owned farming business Landcorp has pledged to become carbon neutral within a decade.

Agriculture produces almost half of New Zealand greenhouse gas emissions, but unlike other sectors farming has been excused from paying for its pollution through the Emissions Trading Scheme.

Cows in Rangiwahia, Manawatu.

Cows in Rangiwahia, Manawatu. Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

The pledge from the country's largest farming busines comes days after climate change talks in Paris produced a landmark agreement to limit global warming to below 2°C and if possible to bring it as low as 1.5°C. Prime Minister John Key said yesterday the government was putting a lot of importance on finding solutions to agricultural emissions.

Landcorp has more than 800,000 stock - cows, sheep and deer - on 140 farms around New Zealand. Its carbon-neutral stance means that in 10 years time the state-owned farmer aims to produce no more greenhouse gas emissions than it can absorb.

Phil McKenzie, Landcorp general manager for the environment, said most of its emissions would be offset by planting 1000 hectares of forests each year for 10 years. It had already identified 7000 hectares as suitable for planting.

"It's an aspiration, but for us it's about building a climate smart, resilient farm."

Landcorp had identified some areas that would be better off in trees than in livestock.

"We've started putting those numbers together and looked at our overall carbon balance and thought if we can improve the efficiency of the stock we're farming, and [put] some land in forestry, then we have a really good chance of becoming a carbon neutral farming organisation."