What a week for government reports. Let’s make it easy for you. The newly released 343-page Emissions Reduction Plan (ERP) has been welcomed by big players in the ag sector – we’ll take the money, thanks – and panned by others for failing to address the food industry’s climate emissions.
There are lots of carrots on the table, in the way of a large injection of cash – $338 million for research into new technologies to reduce agricultural emissions, $652 million in subsidies to help industry and business decarbonise, nearly $100 million to incentivise native forests, $375 million for active and public transport to get people out of cars and $569 million for a vehicle scrapping scheme. Transport, rather than agriculture, is the main focus of the plan.
What’s missing, say critics, are the sticks. Agricultural emissions make up about half of New Zealand’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, including biogenic methane, which is not yet covered by significant policies.
The plan is critiqued for lacking substance and being short details and key decisions – including on some of the of more controversial policies floated by the Climate Change Commission (congestion charging, future bans on new fossil gas connections to homes or the import of fossil fuel vehicles).
Contented cash cow – or over-stuffed elephant in the room? Here are seven pithy opinions soundbites from the national debate:
David Hall, Senior policy academic: “Long on planning, short on strategy”
“There are significant steps forward, but the plan was supposed to shift gears, to get real about urgent climate action – and only partially achieves this,” says David Hall, Senior Lecturer in Social Sciences and Public Policy, AUT. ”
Budget 2022 will reveal some extra expenditure, but most of the $2.9 billion of climate-relevant funding was confirmed alongside the ERP. It exhibits a sensitivity to the electoral constraints on transformation, less so a sense of realism about what decarbonisation actually demands.”
Dairy NZ: “Additional funding adds to already significant investment”
“Because Kiwi dairy farmers are already so efficient, there’s no silver bullet. We need new high-impact technologies and to accelerate their uptake to continue reducing our environmental footprint, while enabling farmers run successful businesses.” says DairyNZ chief executive Dr Tim Mackle.
“It’s a step in the right direction to accelerate the development of new technology needed … Additional funding and the new Centre will add to the significant investment already being made by the sector into R&D – so, collectively, it will accelerate the development of technology and tools to really drive further emissions reductions by the ag sector”, says Mackle.
Climate VC Fund: “You know what would reduce emissions immediately? Fewer cows. On that simple formula, the plan is silent.”
“It’s clear that while the direction of travel in the ERP is right – apart from agriculture – the lack of urgency is disappointing … We’ve known what needs to be done for 20-odd years but delay, obfuscation and (now) political pragmatism have slowed us down”, say Rohan MacMahon and Jez Weston, directors of the Climate Venture Capital Fund.
Bernard Hickey, financial journalist: “A tame, late and skimpy emissions reduction plan”
“So much for a climate emergency”, says financial commentator Bernard Hickey. “The Labour/Green Government has unveiled a politically and financially tame Emissions Reduction Plan, which still puts most of the load on buying credits offshore and has backloaded most of the spending here out past 2024.”
Federated Farmers: “Solutions to agricultural emissions lie in new technologies and tools”
“Federated Farmers is pleased the government has recognised solutions to agricultural emissions lie in new technologies and tools, and is stepping up investment on that front”, says Feds President and climate change spokesperson Andrew Hoggard.
“Nitrate and methane inhibitors, gene editing, animals bred for their lower methane ‘burping’ – they’re the kind of advances that will enable New Zealand’s farming sector to continue to perform for the nation’s economy while maintaining our world-leading meat and dairy carbon footprint.”
Greenpeace: It’s the ‘Omissions Ridiculous Plan’
“Intensive dairying is the number one cause of climate pollution in Aotearoa, so it’s absolutely staggering to see that the Emissions Reduction Plan fails to include policy that would reduce cow numbers or phase out the synthetic nitrogen fertiliser that drive emissions”, says Christine Rose, Greenpeace lead agriculture campaigner .
“This Emissions Reduction plan is not credible because it fails to deal with the dirty great cow in the room – New Zealand’s biggest climate polluter – intensive dairy. Instead of just cutting cow numbers, the Government is relying on industry promises, hypothetical, and unproven technofixes to agricultural emissions, and the freshwater reforms that the dairy industry is undermining at every step”, says Rose
Forest and Bird: “Another opportunity missed: urgency required”
”The Emissions Reduction Plan also shows that once again agriculture is the elephant in the room. says Forest & Bird’s Chief Executive Nicola Toki.
“Farming practices account for half of New Zealand’s emissions. Bringing agriculture in to the ETS is a necessary and inevitable step. Unfortunately it feels like another opportunity has been missed to provide certainty so that farmers and agribusinesses can plan and prepare,” says Toki. “Forest & Bird agrees with Minister Shaw the ERP is an important starting point. The next step must be putting the plan into action with urgency.”