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Mixed response to ETS movement

The coalition government’s confirmation that it will keep agriculture out of the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) will yield positive results in Wairarapa, according to some – although others remain unconvinced

Earlier this week, the government announced it is making good on National’s election campaign promise to amend the Climate Change Response Act to remove agriculture, animal processors, and fertiliser companies from entering the ETS in 2025, a provision that was created by the previous government to give agricultural groups an incentive to agree on a way to price farming gases outside the ETS.

It also announced it is scrapping the sector-led group He Waka Eke Noa and setting up a new Pastoral Sector Group to “constructively tackle” biogenic methane, as well as investing $400 million over the next four years to “accelerate the commercialisation” of tools and technology to reduce on-farm emissions.

Wairarapa electorate MP Mike Butterick said it is “great news” for both Wairarapa and the agricultural sector, allowing farms to stay open and meet climate change obligations.

“Agriculture is the largest industry and employer in the Wairarapa, so its success has big impacts on the wider community,” Butterick said.

“Farmers need the practical tools to reduce their emissions in a way that won’t reduce production or exports.

“He Waka Eke Noa has run its course.

“The Pastoral Sector Group means a fresh start on how the Government engages with the agricultural sector on biogenic methane.”

Federated Farmers Wairarapa president David Hayes agreed, noting that modelling around He Waka Eke Noa proposals indicated that 20 per cent of the nation’s sheep and beef farmers and five per cent of dairy farmers could have gone bust if they were implemented.

“This would have been a huge blow to the Wairarapa and the local economy,” Hayes said.

However, Green Party list MP Celia Wade-Brown said failing to respond to climate change by lowering emissions will see Wairarapa farmers subject to weather extremes and natural disasters.

“Delaying action on agricultural emissions for the foreseeable future is incredibly irresponsible and speaks to disregard and serious neglect,” she said.

“Farmers on the ground are among those hit the first and worst by climate change, from increasingly unpredictable seasonality to the billions required to clean up livelihoods destroyed in the Hawke’s Bay and Wairarapa due to climate-change-charged weather last year.”

Labour list MP Kieran McAnulty said he is “concerned” how the decision will impact free trade agreements with the United Kingdom and European Union.

“These deals have the potential to bring massive benefits to farmers, producers and regions like Wairarapa,” he said.

“However, these are discerning markets, and they will only buy from countries that are living up to their commitment to reduce emissions.

“Without a commitment to fund research and development, I fear they are setting farmers up for tough times in the future.”

Agriculture Minister Todd McClay, on the other hand, argued that “it doesn’t make sense to send jobs and production overseas, while less carbon-efficient countries produce the food the world needs”.

“That is why we are focused on finding practical tools and technology for our farmers to reduce their emissions in a way that won’t reduce production or exports.”

Later this month, McClay said, legislation will be introduced to amend the Climate Change Response Act 2002 before January 1 next year.

However, the emissions of businesses associated with non-farm activities will continue under the ETS.

The disbanding of He Waka Eke Noa is a new beginning, McClay said, and the government will engage directly with levy bodies and sector organisations representing the pastoral sector regarding terms of reference for the Pasture Sector Group.

Climate Change Minister Simon Watts said that in addition to the $400 million research and development funding “$50.5 million will be invested over the next five years in projects to find solutions to reduce the sector’s emissions”.

“These projects include the development of a methane vaccine, a project to breed lower emissions cattle and accelerating the work on methane and nitrous oxide inhibitors.”

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