The Role of Agriculture in Achieving New Zealand’s Climate Change Targets
Posted On 16 April 2023
Climate change is one of the biggest challenges facing the world today, and New Zealand is no exception. In 2019, the New Zealand government passed the Zero Carbon Act, which sets out the country’s ambitious target of achieving net-zero emissions of greenhouse gases by 2050. Achieving this target will require a concerted effort across all sectors of the economy, including agriculture.
Agriculture is a significant contributor to New Zealand’s greenhouse gas emissions, accounting for around 48% of the country’s total emissions in 2019. This means that reducing emissions from the agricultural sector will be crucial in achieving New Zealand’s climate change targets. In this article, we’ll explore the role of agriculture in achieving New Zealand’s climate change targets and look at some of the measures that can be taken to reduce emissions from this sector.
The Importance of Agriculture in New Zealand:
Agriculture is a vital sector of the New Zealand economy, contributing around 10% of the country’s GDP in 2022. It is also the largest employer in many rural communities, providing jobs for around 13% of the country’s workforce. In addition, New Zealand’s agricultural products are highly valued in international markets, with the sector earning around NZD $10.6 billion in export revenue in 2022.
However, agriculture is also a significant contributor to New Zealand’s greenhouse gas emissions, primarily through the methane produced by livestock. This presents a challenge for the sector, as reducing emissions while maintaining productivity and profitability will be crucial in achieving the country’s climate change targets.
Measures to Reduce Emissions from Agriculture:
There are several measures that can be taken to reduce emissions from agriculture in New Zealand. One approach is to improve the efficiency of farming practices, such as reducing the use of nitrogen fertilizers, improving soil health, and increasing the use of renewable energy. This can not only reduce emissions but also improve productivity and profitability.
Another approach is to increase the use of low-emission farming practices, such as planting trees, reducing tillage, and using animal feed additives to reduce methane emissions. These measures can help to offset emissions from livestock and reduce the overall carbon footprint of agriculture.
In addition, there is potential to use new technologies, such as methane inhibitors and breeding programs that produce lower-emission livestock, to further reduce emissions from the sector. However, it is important to ensure that these technologies are both effective and economically viable before they are widely adopted.
The Role of Government in Supporting Agriculture:
One of the primary challenges facing the agricultural sector in New Zealand is the significant greenhouse gas emissions that result from farming activities. As a result, it is essential for the government to develop policies and regulations that incentivize and support emissions reductions.
Financial Incentives For Farmers
One approach that the government could take is to provide financial incentives for farmers who adopt low-emission practices. This could include measures such as grants or subsidies for farmers who invest in technologies that reduce emissions, such as improved irrigation systems or renewable energy sources. The government could also provide tax credits for farmers who adopt low-emission practices or who achieve significant emissions reductions.
Another approach is to introduce regulations that require farms to report their emissions and work towards emissions reductions targets. The government could set emissions targets for the agricultural sector, and require farms to report their emissions on an annual basis. Farms that exceed their emissions targets could be subject to fines or other penalties, while those that meet or exceed their targets could be eligible for incentives or rewards.
Best Practices For Emissions Reductions
In addition to these measures, the government could also work with the agricultural sector to develop and implement best practices for emissions reductions. This could include providing training and support for farmers on how to reduce their emissions, as well as sharing information and resources on best practices and technologies.
Current Policies and Regulations in place in New Zealand
It is worth noting that there are already some policies and regulations in place in New Zealand to support emissions reductions in the agricultural sector. For example, the government has introduced the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS), which includes the agricultural sector and provides financial incentives for emissions reductions. The government has also established the Sustainable Farming Fund, which provides funding for projects that support sustainable and emissions-reducing practices in the agricultural sector.
However, there is still much work to be done to achieve New Zealand’s emissions reduction targets, and the agricultural sector will need to play a significant role in this effort. By developing policies and regulations that incentivize emissions reductions, and by working with the agricultural sector to develop and implement best practices, the government can help to ensure that the sector plays its part in achieving a zero-carbon future for New Zealand.
Reducing emissions from agriculture will be crucial in achieving New Zealand’s climate change targets. While this presents a significant challenge for the sector, there are many measures that can be taken to reduce emissions while maintaining productivity and profitability. By improving the efficiency of farming practices, using low-emission farming techniques, and investing in new technologies, the agricultural sector can play an important role in achieving a more sustainable future for New Zealand. With the support of the government and the wider community, the agricultural sector can make a significant contribution to reducing New Zealand’s greenhouse gas emissions and achieving the goals of the Zero Carbon Act.