The New Zealand government has announced that the requirement for farmers to report climate change emissions will be delayed until later next year. Originally set to come into force on January 1, the mandatory reporting of farm-level emissions will now begin in the fourth quarter of 2024. Additionally, the government has stated that an emissions pricing system will commence in the fourth quarter of 2025, instead of the first quarter of that year. The decision also includes plans to incorporate scientifically validated forms of on-farm sequestration of emissions into the country’s Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS). Methane and nitrous oxide will be treated separately from carbon dioxide (CO2) in the split-gas approach.
The Minister for Agriculture, Damien O’Connor, emphasized that the government’s decisions address concerns raised by stakeholders regarding timelines and establish a framework for determining the farm-level levy price. He stated that the plan supports farmers’ transition, ensures future export growth, and aligns with other climate policies to continue reducing emissions. O’Connor stressed the importance of New Zealand demonstrating its sustainability credentials to secure food and fiber export growth. He believes that incorporating scientifically validated forms of sequestration into the NZ ETS is the best approach, rather than establishing a parallel system. This would allow methods such as indigenous vegetation or riparian plantings to be recognized. O’Connor also highlighted the need for accurate measurement and management of emissions by farmers before farm-level pricing begins.
The New Zealand government has allocated over NZ$300 million over four years through Budget 2022 to accelerate the reduction of on-farm emissions and provide additional support to farmers. The government has partnered with the agricultural sector to invest NZ$54 million in the Centre for Climate Action on Agricultural Emissions, which aims to reduce emissions. This includes the development of a methane inhibiting bolus, expanding the pool of researchers with agricultural greenhouse gas (GHG) mitigation skills, and establishing a new greenhouse gas testing facility for large cattle. The 2023 Budget has also allocated NZ$15.4 million to continue developing a system for farmers and their advisors to calculate and report agricultural emissions.
Despite the government’s policy being open for public consultation, Beef and Lamb New Zealand (B+LNZ) and the Meat Industry Association (MIA) expressed their dismay. They argue that the arbitrary deadline set for pricing agricultural emissions lacks justification, given the sector’s progress in emissions reduction and the unresolved issues surrounding sequestration and mitigation tools. Kate Acland, chair of B+LNZ, emphasized the need for a practical and cost-effective framework for measuring and reporting emissions before considering pricing. She stated that New Zealand’s sheep and beef farmers are among the most efficient producers globally and have reduced emissions by 1% annually for the past 30 years. Acland warned that the government’s policy could result in decreased production and increased global emissions if less efficient countries take New Zealand’s place in the market. She stressed the importance of taking the time to develop a well-thought-out approach, considering that the country’s economy relies on food production and export.