Agriculture to blame for methane rise


A New Zealand-led international study has focused attention on what's creating the methane that contributes to climate change.

Since 2006, methane has been steadily increasing, and the burning of fossil fuels was previously thought to be the culprit.

But New Zealand's biggest industry is emerging as the real offender.

"Forty percent of our emissions are methane and they are exclusively agriculture, so they are the biggest source," says NIWA atmospheric scientist Hinrich Schaefer.

He's led a global study into methane and his findings move the pendulum away from fossil fuels and towards agriculture being the culprit.

"I think it gives us a very clear focus on where our first course of action has to lie to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions," he says.

While internationally many aren't aware of the issue of agricultural emissions, it's well-known back home.

In New Zealand, the Government has committed $65 million to go toward researching a way to reduce agricultural emissions without crippling the industries.

But Green party co-leader James Shaw says we're not acting fast enough.

"We need to do something about agricultural emissions immediately. We can't just kick it into the long grass while we wait for some scientific silver bullet solution."

Climate Change Minster Paula Bennett recognises the severity of the issue but says that there is no quick fix for methane emissions.

She says there are good farmers and bad farmers, and she's happy to talk about best practice, but she won't go as far as making bad practices illegal.