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Promise of better relations

The government held a range of information sessions to hear from farmers. PHOTO/FILE

GIANINA SCHWANECKE

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Many farmers across the country will probably breathe a small sigh of relief following Thursday’s announcement that the government would work with farmers to lower agricultural emissions.

Earlier this year a report released by the Interim Climate Change Committee [ICCC] recommended the government price livestock emissions at the farm level, and fertiliser emissions at the processor level, through the New Zealand Emissions Trading Scheme [ETS].

Under this option farmers would be asked to declare their emissions by 2023, reporting would be mandatory by 2024 and by 2025 they would have to pay for these emissions – with a 95 per cent free allocation of emissions units.

It generated widespread criticism from the rural sector who favoured a sector-led proposal and wanted agricultural emissions to be left out of the ETS.

About 200 people packed into the Carterton Events Centre in August to have their thoughts heard on proposals to reduce agricultural emissions.

William Beetham. PHOTO/FILE

Wairarapa Federated Farmers president William Beetham said it was fantastic news.

“It creates a big opportunity for New Zealand to get this right and get good outcomes. I think there’s a real promise here,” he said.

He said in accepting the industry proposal, the government had opened up and shown they were willing to partner with farmers.

“I’m confident that the industry is going to be able to deliver.”

Beetham had just returned from a conference in Canterbury looking at technology which could be used to measure on farm emissions.

The systems would need to be flexible to be able to adapt with the science, he said.

“This is not agriculture dropping the ball. It’s that the science is complicated and still evolving.

However, Beetham still hoped the government was listening to farmers concerns about other proposed legislative changes, such as methane reduction targets and ne freshwater standards.

“There are certainly other aspects where the government hasn’t listened,” he said.

He said, like all industries, agriculture had been included in the ETS since its inception through its fossil fuel emissions.

This is where the real concern was, he said.

“The major issue we face is the fossil fuel economy.”

Under the sector-led plan, the government will develop practical and cost-effective ways to measure and price emissions at the farm level by 2025.

This includes improved tools for estimating on farm emissions, increased farm advisory capacity, investment in research, as well as incentives for early adopters and recognition of on farm mitigation like riparian plantings.

Major reforms to the ETS have also been announced to make it “fit for purpose”, with a cap on industrial energy and transport emissions, and forester incentives simplified.

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