Opposition: Agriculture ETS deal a 'back down' by Government

Farmers have finally been herded into paying for emissions, although the Opposition is calling the 2025 starting date a "back down".

The country's biggest polluters and the Government have finally reached consensus, agreeing that the agriculture sector will start paying for its emissions by 2025.

"That is frankly historic," says Climate Change Minister James Shaw. "It's never happened before."

But they won't be paying for all their emissions. Thanks to New Zealand First's coalition agreement, they will foot the bill for just 5 percent of them.

But paying for 5 percent of emissions by 2025 is about where this consensus ends. A major report from the Interim Climate Change Committee (ICCC)  recommends agriculture start paying soon, saying processors like Fonterra should be brought into the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) from 2020.

But 11 farming sector groups have banded together to say entering the ETS before 2025 is not the answer.

"Reward [good] behaviours on-farm now, as opposed to taking $50 million out of the sector, put into an external pot," says chairman of Beef + Lamb, Andrew Morrison.

Shaw says the specifics of the plan after 2025 are yet to be decided. 

After 2025, the ICCC recommends a levy/rebate scheme be established to put a price on emissions at each farm. It would be integrated with the emissions trading scheme.

Greenpeace is gobsmacked by the 95 percent discount farmers will get .

"I don't know why we would want to subsidise our own climate destruction," says Greenpeace's executive director, Russel Norman. "Surely the agriculture sector should pay for it and then they'll have an incentive to actually cut their emissions."

When asked if he was happy with the 5 percent figure, Shaw replied: "What I'm happy with is you've got the agriculture sector saying they want to lead on climate change."

The Opposition is calling it an unnecessary tax, while also accusing Labour and the Greens of backing down after campaigning on bringing the agriculture sector into the ETS by 2020.

"Make no bones about it, this is a backdown," says Opposition leader Simon Bridges.

Getting farmers onboard with paying for emissions by 2025 is a big change for the sector - but for the Government, the devil will be in the detail.