Jacinda Ardern defends climate change action after New Zealand's methane emissions targeted in global reduction push

Jacinda Ardern insists her Government is "working very hard" on climate action after New Zealand was mentioned in a global push to reduce the planet-warming gas methane. 

According to documents seen by Reuters news agency, the United States and the European Union will make a joint pledge to reduce human-caused methane emissions by at least 30 percent by 2030, compared with 2020 levels. 

The pact between Washington and Brussels comes ahead of a major world summit in November to address climate change known as COP26, in Glasgow, Scotland, which Climate Change Minister James Shaw will attend. 

The Global Methane Pledge documents seen by Reuters purportedly show how the US and EU will attempt to convince over two dozen countries - including New Zealand - to join the methane reduction target. 

The countries, according to the documents seen by Reuters, include "major emitters" such as China, Russia, India, Brazil and Saudi Arabia, as well as others including Norway, Qatar, Britain, New Zealand and South Africa.

Speaking to reporters on Tuesday in response to New Zealand being included in the list, the Prime Minister said her Government is working hard to address the climate crisis. 

She said the Government's targets are based on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the United Nations body for assessing the science related to climate change.

"We've tried to really lean into the international science in this space because it's important to us and it's important that we do our bit," Ardern said. 

"The second point I'd make is of course, we do that in the context of those emissions derived from food production being the most significant proportion of our overall emissions profile. 

"My view is that actually, by developing initiatives that substantially reduce those emissions, we will have something that the rest of the world will be very grateful for.

"We are working very hard to actually reduce those emissions in real terms. We are the only country in the world that I know of that has made a commitment to how we will price emissions that are produced through our food production. You're just not seeing that in other countries."

The Government will start taxing agriculture emissions from 2025, but farmers will get a 95 percent discount, despite agriculture making up about half of New Zealand's reported emissions. 

In 2019, agriculture and energy sectors were the two largest contributors to New Zealand's gross emissions, at 48 percent and 42 percent, respectively, according to the latest annual inventory of greenhouse gases.

Between 1990 and 2019, gross emissions increased by 26 percent, mostly due to increases in methane from dairy cattle digestive systems and carbon dioxide from road transport.

New Zealand has committed to reaching net zero emissions of greenhouse gases by 2050 and reducing methane emissions by between 24 to 47 percent by 2050. But the Climate Change Commission says current policies will not get us there. 

The Climate Change Commission's final advice in June said nearly all light vehicles entering the country need to be electric by 2035 and around 20,000 to 30,000 farm businesses will need to change management practices. 

The Government must have set the first three emissions budgets out to 2035 and released its first emissions reduction plan, by December 31. 

The Climate Change Commission said meeting the recommended emissions budgets could result in 2600 fewer jobs in sheep, beef and grain farming by 2035.