Greenpeace gripes at govt’s greenhouse gas agenda but agriculture leaders welcome it (and push genetic technologies)

Despite   pouring  $2.9 billion  of  taxpayer funds  into  the  battle against  climate  change, the Ardern  government won few  plaudits  from  climate  change lobbies – and  copped a  severe  caning   from  Greenpeace for refusing to cut  dairy herds.

As  Radio  NZ  reported,

“Climate activists say the government’s landmark plan to curb emissions is light on detail, full of fluff, and lets the worst polluters off the hook”.

Government  ministers were  nevertheless ebullient   about their  package, believing  they  had  delivered a  master stroke  in  earmarking $569 million  to help low-income families get  cleaner  cars  while winning  over  farmers  with a  new  agricultural emissions centre.

Greenpeace  saw  that  rather  differently.  As  their  spokesperson put it:

“The Emissions Reduction Plan gifts $710 million to the agricultural industry – a quarter of the entire Climate Emergency Response Fund which it has not contributed towards”.

In  all  the  discussion, the    assumption is that NZ  is  doing  its  full share – or  perhaps  even  more – in the  battle  against global warming, even though the country’s emissions  are  less than O.5% of  the global total.

At the launch, Climate Change Minister James Shaw said the collection of policies will cut greenhouse emissions “all while creating new jobs, improving our communities, and making life better for people”.

The  government  previously  announced the scale of the emissions cuts it wants to achieve: all greenhouse gases will fall 7% by 2025; 22% by 2030 and 38% by 2035 (compared to 2019).

Some ideas from its independent expert body, the Climate Change Commission, weren’t heeded – notably, the call to stop connecting new houses to the fossil gas network.

This proposal was strongly opposed by the gas sector. But critics say the Government’s backdown will leave new homes reliant on fossil fuels.

Instead, the Government said it will develop a “gas transition plan” before the end of 2023.  This would explore opportunities for renewable gases.

The  strongest  attack  on  the  government’s  measures  not  unexpectedly came from Greenpeace,  whose  spokesperson, Christine  Rose, said despite the climate emergency,

“… industrial dairy has yet again been given a free pass that now comes with a huge subsidy from the rest of New Zealand.

“The Government’s projections show the ERP will reduce agricultural emissions by as little as 0.33 Mt CO2e over the 2022-2025 period which is less than 1% of the industry’s projected emissions.  The ERP’s approach to agriculture relies heavily on industry self-regulation – through He Waka Eke Noa – which is also expected to reduce emissions by only 1%.

“Instead of just cutting cow numbers, the Government is relying on industry promises, hypothetical, and unproven techno-fixes to agricultural emissions, and the freshwater reforms that the dairy industry is undermining at every step,” says Rose.

And:

“To truly deal with the climate crisis the Government needs a far better plan than they have produced.  A plan that cuts cow numbers, phases out synthetic fertiliser and drives the transition to more plant-based regenerative organic farming,” says Rose.

Of  course   the  fact  the  dairy  industry  is  the  mainstay of  NZ’s export  economy,  pumping  nearly $23bn a  year  on  to the  country’s  balance sheet  of   foreign exchange,  is  a mere  bagatelle  for  Greenpeace.

As Point of  Order  sees  it,  the  moderate  elements  within   the   government  led  by  Damien  O’Connor have  clearly  prevailed.

This  is  a  plus  for  NZ,    which  –  while  doing  its  share  in  the  battle  to control  global  warming  –  should   not  necessarily   be  in   the  vanguard   ahead  of  the  giant  emitters like  China.

Asked whether the government had let agriculture off the hook, Finance Minister Grant Robertson said farmers, like all sectors, would do their “fair share”.

“We have to get alongside the sector to make sure we get meaningful emissions reduction – so, no, they are very much part of this. Every sector has to pull their weight.”

O’Connor added the government was working closely with the industry to drive innovation and shift behaviours.

“We will ramp up the reductions from agriculture in the second and third budgets.”

But while Federated Farmers was pleased the government had recognised solutions to agricultural emissions lay in new technologies and tools, and is stepping up investment on that front, feds president Andrew Hoggard raised a good question:

“It will be important to understand how the proposed new Centre for Climate Action on Agricultural Emissions fits with existing bodies such as the NZ Agricultural Greenhouse Gas Research Centre, the Pastoral GHG Research Consortium (PGGRC) and the international bodies New Zealand partners with, such as the Global Research Alliance.”

“New Zealand farmers have been funding millions of dollars into greenhouse gas mitigation tools since 2003 via the PGGRC.”

The feds again made a point they have made many times previously – serious investigation and society-wide discussion is needed on the role genetic technologies, particular gene editing – can play in dealing with environmental challenges   

2 thoughts on “Greenpeace gripes at govt’s greenhouse gas agenda but agriculture leaders welcome it (and push genetic technologies)

  1. If Greenpeace is upset by it, then there is some merit in the plan. The Government will waste money we can’t afford on a whole lot more committees and things that either don’t work or will have little benefit,, but at least they don’t do anything really stupid and irreversible. And we have not had one example yet of any of our leadership class walking the talk and really changing their lifestyle to the low carbon way, like catching the bus to work. . That hypocrisy says a lot more than the advertising slogans.

    Liked by 1 person

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