'Deeply concerned': Sheep and beef sector reacts to climate change plan

New Zealand's sheep and beef sector is unhappy with the Government's plans to address climate change, saying the proposals would have a dramatic impact on rural communities.

The Government is to introduce the Climate Change Response (Zero Carbon) Amendment Bill to address the long-term challenges of climate change.

Beef + Lamb New Zealand (B+LNZ) said it was deeply concerned over the proposed treatment of methane and targets in the Bill and wants critical changes made.

It said the proposed methane reduction targets of between 24-47 percent by 2050 significantly exceed both New Zealand and global scientific advice and the Government is asking more of agriculture than fossil fuel emitters elsewhere in the economy.

Chairman and Southland sheep and beef farmer Andrew Morrison said the sector is committed to playing its part in addressing climate change and acknowledges that in some areas the Government has followed scientific advice, such as the split gas approach and proposed ambitious net zero target for nitrous oxide.

"Sheep and beef emissions have already reduced by 30 percent since 1990, helping meet New Zealand's climate change challenge and we accept we still have work to do," he said.

Andrew Morrison said the plan is unfair on farmers
Andrew Morrison said the plan is unfair on farmers Photo credit: Supplied

He said New Zealand needs a robust science-based and fair approach when setting targets for an issue which will affect future generations.

"It's unreasonable to ask farmers to be cooling the climate, as the Government's proposed targets would do, without expecting the rest of the economy to also do the same," said Morrison.

"Beef + Lamb New Zealand is calling for a fair approach, where each gas is reduced based on its warming impact."

He said an equitable approach requires carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide to go to net zero, and methane to be reduced and stabilised by between 10-22 percent. 

"This is consistent with the advice from the independent Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment who identified this range as meaning methane would be contributing no additional warming."

"Any target above a 10-22 percent reduction is therefore asking methane to cool the planet."

Morrison said as the Zero Carbon Bill currently stands, it would have a dramatic impact on New Zealand's regional communities and the entire economy, and the knock-on effect will be felt by every Kiwi.

"New Zealand's sheep and beef sector is worth approximately $10.4 billion, is the country's largest manufacturing sector, the second largest export earner, and supports 80,000 jobs across the country, both directly and indirectly."

"These jobs form the heart of hundreds of regional communities. The social and economic impacts of these potential changes will reverberate beyond the farm gate and hollow out the many regional communities who rely heavily on our sector."