Dairy industry says farmers committed to reducing emissions but 'no silver bullets'

Almost half of the country's greenhouse gas emissions come from agriculture.
Almost half of the country's greenhouse gas emissions come from agriculture. Photo credit: Getty

Dairy farmers are committed to reducing their environmental footprint but there are no "silver bullets" when it comes to reducing on-farm emissions, says DairyNZ.

The lobbying group's comments come after the Government on Wednesday declared a climate change emergency, pledging a carbon-neutral public sector by 2025.

Almost half of the country's greenhouse gas emissions come from agriculture, and Tim Mackle, chief executive of Dairy NZ, says the dairy sector is investing heavily in research to help farmers tackle climate change.

"There are no silver bullets, it is about making incremental changes across the whole farm system," Mackle said. 

"While many solutions are known, some are not, which is why DairyNZ and others are investing heavily in research."

He said New Zealand was currently "one of the most sustainable and emission efficient dairy producers in the world" but acknowledged more could be done.

"If all dairy producers were as efficient as New Zealand, more than half the global emissions from dairy could be removed. But we know we can be even better and the dairy sector is 100 percent committed to this," he said.

As part of its efforts, the sector has joined forces with Government and iwi through the He Waka Eke Noa partnership, Mackle said, which would support farmers and growers to measure, manage and reduce their emissions. 

He Waka Eke Noa is a five-year programme providing tools and information for farmers and growers to help them adapt to the changing climate.

The emergency declared on Wednesday recognised "the devastating impact that volatile and extreme weather will have on New Zealand and the wellbeing of New Zealanders, on our primary industries, water availability, and public health through flooding, sea level rise, and wildfire".

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the country must "act with urgency" and pledged to reduce emissions from the public sector and become a carbon-neutral government by 2025.

The move was criticised by some as a hollow political stunt that was largely symbolic and would not actually achieve a reduction in emissions.

But Climate Change Minister James Shaw stood by the declaration, saying there was a concrete plan to enact change.

"It's not just symbolic declaration in and of itself, there's a whole work programme behind it and a reorganisation of the machinery of government from ministers right through agencies to deliver on our commitments," he said.