COP26: New Zealand's methane deal catches government officials off-guard, leaves farmers stunned

New Zealand has signed on to a major climate agreement that will see the world cut its methane emissions by 30 percent by 2030.

However the announcement in Glasgow caught New Zealand officials off-guard - and resulted in scurried efforts to reassure equally shocked and worried farmers about what it means for their businesses. 

United States President Joe Biden produced a power play when he announced the US and around 100 other countries will together cut methane by 30 percent by 2030.

New Zealand is a part of those 100 countries and Climate Change Minister James Shaw is aware that methane has to come down. 

"If we're going to live within a 1.5C world, then methane is one of the gases that has to come down," Shaw says. 

Shaw had been planning to join the talks and be in Glasgow in time for this announcement but there was a mistake with the schedule. 

"There was a shift in the schedule, we thought it was coming out next week, but these things happen," Shaw says. 

If the government was caught off-guard on Wednesday morning, then farmers were stunned. 

"It's pretty devastating really, it's a massive reduction to be had and it has the potential to decimate our industry and the New Zealand economy," dairy farmer Duncan Barr tells Newshub. "Yes we have to be global citizens but it's not our job to lead the world."

New Zealand already has a goal of reducing biogenic methane by 10 percent by 2030 and because the 30 percent target is a global goal to be reached collectively, not individually, Shaw is promising no extra impact on our farmers.  

"We've got to do this together, and some of us are a little further ahead on some of those things than others," Shaw says.  

Methane is a major contributor to global emissions and it accounts for 42 percent of New Zealand's carbon footprint. Agriculture is responsible for 89 percent of that.

Australia has snubbed the agreement due to concerns for their farmers but New Zealand's targets go even further.

"We need some honesty from the Government around this about what we are going to measure and what we are looking to reduce," Barr says. 

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