NZ expert calls for food for the world with least possible environmental impact

by | Jun 29, 2022 | Opinion

New Zealand and the rest of the world needs to create and distribute proteins and carbohydrates for human consumption with the least possible environmental impact, says Dr Rod Carr. 

Achieving this will require the least input of energy, nutrients and water and the least waste, runoff and emissions.

Dr Carr is speaking as the Chair of the New Zealand Climate Change Commission, and also as a member of the Expert UN Group Net-Zero Emissions Commitments of Non-State Entities

Earlier this year Carr was invited onto the 18-member high level group, launched in March by United Nations secretary general Antonio Guterres. The group was set up to advise Guterres secretary general on claims by non-state actors (such as companies, cities and regions) that they or their products and services are net zero or are on a path to net zero.

The Expert Group is briefed with developing stronger and clearer standards for net-zero emissions pledges and helping speed up their implementation. The group has met three times and is opening a web portal for written submissions from the public. It is due to make recommendations before the end of the year.

Increasing scepticism about net zero claims based on offsets, many of which are neither permanent nor additional reductions in emissions and have decades ahead of high gross emissions in their pathway to net zero are raising concerns, says Carr. How the world might certify, audit and enforce offsets and net zero claims is up for debate.

“Claims of net zero fossil diesel oil based on combustion emissions in rich countries being offset by forestry in poor countries threaten to deceive people about the imperative to reduce gross emissions. “Such claims will taint more credible net zero claims which might be able to be made by the land based sector.’ he says.

“Science tells us that our fossil fuelled, energy intensive, high emission production system is unsustainable. High emissions lifestyles and livelihoods are at risk of disruption. High emission ways of producing protein and carbohydrates for human consumption will give way to lower emission alternatives.

“In the eyes of some in the developing world, creating 20kg of CO2e greenhouse gas emissions to create one kilo of red meat to make a profit from feeding the affluent few on a starving, dying planet is environmentally unsustainable and socially unjust.

“Changing consumer preferences, alternative technologies and foreign regulators, along with the economics of alternative land use, including reversion, will do much to reduce GHG emissions from New Zealand red meat production this decade. Our farmers have been among some of the most innovative, flexible and adaptive farmers in the past. Through breeding, feeding and changing farm practices farmers have raised productivity and profitability, now we must rapidly and dramatically reduce gross emissions. Lifestyles and livelihoods depend on it”.

Dr Rod Carr, climate tsar

A few years ago Dr Rod Carr thought he had retired. Formerly the acting governor of the Reserve Bank of New Zealand, Carr had also been a director of the Canterbury Employers’ Chamber of Commerce and the University of Canterbury’s Vice-Chancellor.  Quitting full time work, he had let his beard grow until he resembled a 19th century Russian novelist, ran a marathon in North Korea and planned to sit on a board or two. In 2019 Carr was asked by Climate Change Minister James Shaw if he would consider chairing the Climate Change Commission​. The challenge of keeping current and future governments on track towards Zero Carbon Act targets set Carr off on a the journey of discovery, as reported here by

“People are looking at what’s happening on the news, what’s happening around the world, and they know something is amiss, something needs to be done. We can’t keep kicking the can down the road. We are now fixed with knowledge” says Carr. “Once the mainstream is fixed with knowledge, the excuses ‘we didn’t know, we couldn’t make a difference, we thought it was going to fix itself’, become essentially unacceptable excuses.”

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Photo by Engin Akyurt on Unsplash



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