50 Shades of Green campaign takes aim at Emissions Trading Scheme

A group opposed to carbon forestry has launched a new ad campaign aimed at raising awareness of its impact on the country's sheep and beef sector. 

50 Shades of Green was established last year with the purpose of protecting productive farmland from being lost to carbon forests.

The new ad campaign comes after the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) was passed earlier this month. 

The Minister for Climate Change James Shaw has said the scheme is one of the most effective tools the country has for reducing climate-polluting emissions, but industry groups have expressed concern at some of the reforms. 

The main fear for many is the bill incentivises the acceleration of productive farmland being converted to pines planted for carbon credits.

With New Zealand's goal to be carbon neutral by 2050, the ETS has effectively turned carbon into a currency. People receive credits for planting trees which can then be sold to companies to offset their emissions.

But 50 Shades of Green spokesperson Pattie O’Boyle says the legislation doesn't have effective safeguards in place to protect prime agricultural land. 

According to 50 Shades of Green and other industry groups, around 70,000 hectares of productive sheep and beef land has been, or is in the process of being, converted to forestry. 

Those numbers differ from Government figures, however, which state around 11,000 hectares have gone to planting.

O'Boyle said the figure of 70,000 had been validated by Beef + Lamb NZ.

"My understanding is that figure is actually a lot higher than that but until it's got its final validation 70,000 is where it is presently sitting," O'Boyle told Magic Talk's Rural Today on Tuesday.

"It's actually land that has been sold for those purposes. I'm not absolutely sure that it's all been planted but that is the intention of those coming in to gain those carbon credits and basically launder their carbon on food producing land - which we all know, and it has become even more apparent since COVID, that New Zealand has a huge role to play in global food supply and more importantly for our domestic consumer."

She said carbon forestry was taking its toll on rural livelihoods.

"It's compelling, the data around jobs, around local economies, around the environment."

The group is launching a TV ad campaign starting on July 1 to raise awareness for its cause, using footage that shows what O'Boyle describes as "the death of the landscape, the death of the community, the death of the breeding grounds for that very first step in a food supply chain".

The group said it felt it was necessary to create an ad campaign because: "We don’t think the vision of a New Zealand covered in pine is a vision that resonates with most New Zealanders nor have New Zealanders caught up with what the impact on our landscape will be". 

The Government has rejected criticism by industry groups, saying its scheme is one of the most ambitious in the world.