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Climate change report calls for immediate progress on farm emissions

Felix Marwick, Hannah Bartlett,
Publish Date
Thu, 20 Oct 2016, 5:37AM
The Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment has released a report calling for an immediate start on dealing with the greenhouse gases coming from the farming sector (Photo / NZ Herald)

Climate change report calls for immediate progress on farm emissions

Felix Marwick, Hannah Bartlett,
Publish Date
Thu, 20 Oct 2016, 5:37AM

The Government's seeing planting new forests as a possible answer to combating the farming sector's greenhouse gas emissions.

The Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment is calling for more and immediate progress to be made on handling farming emissions, which make up around half of the country's total emissions profile.

LISTEN ABOVE: Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, Dr Jan Wright, spoke with Mike Hosking

Climate Change Minister Paula Bennett is of the view more can be done to mitigate emissions and is particularly interested in the areas around planting new forests, including native ones.

"That's part of the work that we're doing so I'm really interested in, certainly, the good old classic pine forests, but I think there's some really interesting work going on now in permanent forests and the storage for native," she said.

Ms Bennett said as the Commissioner herself has said, there isn't a silver bullet solution. And she's ruling out bringing agriculture in to the Emissions Trading Scheme.

"We're not interested in bringing agriculture 100 per cent into the ETS at this time as we've consistently said but I just think that piece of work is really going to help us in what we are doing moving ahead."

Green Party Co-Leader James Shaw is calling the report an excellent piece of work, and highlights the fact all the scientific research the Government is putting its weight behind, is very speculative and has a low chance of success.

"And what that means is we've got to start looking at other things," he said.

Environment Minister Nick Smith said the report is thoughtful and constructive, but he won't go into any detail about how the Government should respond.

"You need to put that question to the Climate Change Minister," he said. "All I'm saying is this is a useful report."

Federated Farmers say while they welcome suggestions for new farming options, there are no quick fixes or easy solutions.

National Vice-President Anders Crofoot said they agree with the report's findings - but the challenge is finding farming alternatives that suit New Zealand's hilly terrain, and hold a viable market.

He said farmers get good returns on dairy, beef, and sheep, and far, have been working to farm these smarter.

"Getting more efficient at what they're doing so for every kilo of product we're being more efficient. That's led to not increasing our emissions as fast as they would if nothing was happening."

Mr Crofoot said while climate change has been a challenge for some farmers to get their heads around, the report will help start a conversation about what they should, and could, be doing differently.

"It gives everybody a base platform to have a discussion and you don't wind up past each other because you're each dealing with a different set of facts or beliefs."

He said options like orchards or crops need to take into account the prolific hilly terrain, and there also needs to be a market for the food type.

"You know, Manuka honey's probably one of the latest flavours of the month. Hopefully that's not a bubble, but it's an option, and I think if there are viable options put on the table, farmers are certainly going to consider it."

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