The world stands on the brink of a food crisis worse than any seen in the last 50 years, the UN has warned as it urged governments to act swiftly to avoid disaster.
So what is the Ardern government doing about it? Shouldn’t it be working to ramp up food production? After all, NZ prides itself on being among the world’s leaders in producing high-quality food.
Instead, Climate Change Minister James Shaw is celebrating being “ ambitious” in tackling what he calls the climate crisis with, he says,
“ … necessary rule changes that will incentivise NZ’s biggest polluters to invest in the transition to a clean, climate-friendly economy”.
This includes putting a price on farming emissions. Shaw reckons it’s great that this puts NZ further ahead on climate action than many other parts of the world.
But, as Federated Farmers pointed out, there has been no analysis undertaken since the pandemic on how sweeping changes to the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) will impact the economy and NZ’s international competitiveness.
Surely, if the world is facing a food crisis, the government in NZ would be doing what Britain is planning, with the legalisation of gene-editing of crops?
Scientists say gene-editing offers the chance to develop and grow hardier, more nutritious varieties. The legislation would also open the door to gene-editing of animals.
And, if the government is focussed on NZ “uniting for recovery”, wouldn’t it be leading the way in creating an overarching water strategy, as Irrigation NZ has called for, to guide planning and ensure further water storage development?
Where does the agriculture sector figure in the government’s post-pandemic recovery plan? If Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor has one, it has yet to be spelled out.
And he doesn’t seem to have much to say when NZ dairy farmers come under attack, as they did last week, when the European-based Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy said Fonterra’s export-led strategy had led to rising emissions and an economic crisis for NZ’s dairy producers.
Emissions from NZ’s agricultural sector had risen by 12% since 1990 with the doubling of its dairy herd and a 600% increase in fertiliser use, according to Shefali Sharma, report author and European director at IATP.
Greenpeace campaigner Gen Toop said the IATP report should be a wake-up call for Fonterra and the government.
It was left to Fonterra to rebut the contention. NZ dairy farmers had reduced on-farm emissions intensity by about 20% over the past 25 years, with the strongest improvements from 2007 to 2016 according to Fonterra director of global sustainability, Carolyn Mortland.
She said the IATP report contained several inaccuracies:
“For example, the Fonterra emissions are significantly over-reported at 44m tonnes of C02-equivalent rather than 22m tonnes.”
In contrast, a comprehensive and peer-reviewed report released earlier this year said the carbon footprint of NZ’s on-farm milk supply was less than one-third of the global average and up to 30% lower than the greenhouse gas footprints of European and North American milk production.
“A litre of milk produced in NZ creates 0.91 kilograms of CO2 emissions, compared to the global average of 2.5kg.”
While the IATP report argued emissions intensity improvements were “greenwashing”, Mortland said the measurements were important for allowing nutrition to be delivered with a lower emissions footprint.
As Point of Order sees it, the dairy industry should be in the forefront of the government’s post-pandemic recovery plan.
Instead it comes under constant attack from the climate change warriors who seem unable to grasp how fragile the economy has become, nor how important the industry’s foreign exchange earnings have become, in sustaining the country’s living standards.