Environmental impact needs to be rural focus -- PM

  • 22/03/2016

By Tina Morrison

New Zealand farmers need to step up their investment on science and innovation to combat the impact of methane and nitrates from agriculture on climate change, Prime Minister John Key said.

Mr Key told the Platinum Primary Producers annual conference in Wellington that the focus would return to climate change as the economy recovers from the global financial crisis and the pressure would come more and more on the agricultural industry, which is responsible for half of New Zealand's emissions.

Methane gas emissions alone from ruminant livestock such as sheep and cattle account for a third of total emissions and Government and industry are already spending around $7 million a year seeking scientific solutions to reduce them.

"The world is going to heat up if it's left unchecked," he said. "People who get up and say it's Armageddon, it's the end of the universe, it's the worst thing that's ever happened in the world, we will all die as a result of it, are missing one fundamental point and that is science will deal with the issues as long as we keep investing. If we did absolutely nothing and just allowed temperatures to continue to rise then we would have a huge issue but the truth is that won't happen."

He said the agricultural industry needed to focus on climate change, given the potential risk to their businesses.

Climate Change Minister Paula Bennett last week confirmed the Government would be removing the current concessionary treatment of heavy domestic industry polluters from the country's emissions trading scheme, acknowledging that the price of carbon under the ETS had so far been too low to have an impact on emitters' behaviour.

The price of New Zealand Units of carbon have risen to just above $11 per tonne in recent days, their highest since a price collapse in 2011.