'A major sellout': Greenpeace slams emissions plan for farmers

Environmental groups are unhappy with the new agreement between the Government and the agriculture sector over the management of farm emissions.

In July, an Interim Climate Change Committee recommended that farmers and growers should enter the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS).

In a surprise move, the Government has instead announced what it describes as a "world-first partnership to reduce primary sector emissions in one of the most significant developments on climate action in New Zealand's history". 

Under the partnership, farmers and growers would be able to calculate their emissions and offsets at the farm gate by 2025, instead of joining the ETS.

However, if progress isn't being made by 2022, the Government can bring the sector into the ETS at processor level before 2025.

Greenpeace has branded the move a "major sellout" and a "backdown" by the Government. 

"The Government has buckled to lobbying pressure from the dairy industry and big agri-business," said Greenpeace campaigner Gen Toop.

"Agriculture is our biggest climate polluter. An emissions trading scheme without the sector in it is a joke and won't be able to combat the climate emergency - the greatest threat humanity has ever faced," she said.

"The Government is protecting the short term profits of a few in the dairy and agricultural sector at the expense of the rest of us and the future of our entire planet."

Kevin Hague said more urgency was needed in the plan.
Kevin Hague said more urgency was needed in the plan. Photo credit: File

Forest & Bird Chief Executive Kevin Hague said the Government and agriculture industry were taking a step in the right direction but said the change was far too slow. 

"We need all industries to do everything they can to reduce greenhouse gas emissions right away," he said.

"The longer we leave it, the faster the agriculture sector will have to cut emissions to limit warming to 1.5 degrees, the harder it will be for farmers." 

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said it was a historic consensus with the primary sector.

"This plan provides the primary sector with certainty and puts us shoulder-to-shoulder on a path to reduce emissions, with ongoing support to help with the plan, such as the $229 million Sustainable Land Use investment.

"This will reduce emissions by giving farmers the autonomy to plan to do so and reward those who do," she said.

Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters said the Government had taken the concerns of farmers onboard.

"The decision to put in place a sector-led plan to reduce emissions at the farm gate shows we've listened to farmers," he said.

"We welcome the cooperation of our primary sector organisations who have been advocating for a smooth transition towards meaningful emission reductions," said Peters.

Major reforms to the ETS have also been announced with a cap on industrial energy and transport emissions, and forester incentives simplified.