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Farmers must face up to climate change

Farmers must face up to climate change and help find solutions to greenhouse gas emissions from their industry, says the Convenor of the Ministerial Group on Climate Change, Pete Hodgson.

"The proposed agricultural emissions research levy is aimed at finding solutions through science and farmers should think about the opportunities that research offers," Mr Hodgson said today.

"The Government is exempting agriculture from emissions charges – the 'carbon tax' – on greenhouse gases produced by farming. Other industries face charges on their process emissions by 2008, but agriculture is exempt until at least 2012. If the Government really was imposing a 'flatuence tax' on farm emissions the cost to the sector would be almost $1 billion a year.

"Instead the Government is proposing a very modest levy to raise $8.4 million a year for additional research into agricultural greenhouse gases. The taxpayer already spends $4.7 million a year on this and will continue to do so.

"For two years the Government has been urging the agriculture sector to fund more research in this area, which would avoid the need for a levy. Its response has been to commit just $800,000 to a research consortium, less than a tenth of the amount an independent scientific panel said would be needed for a thorough research programme.

"Farming thrives in New Zealand because it has a benign, stable climate that is ideal for pastoral agriculture. Farmers have a great deal to lose from climate change and they are being asked for a fair and reasonable financial contribution to help address the greenhouse gas emissions from their own business.

"Agricultural methane and nitrous oxide make up more than half New Zealand's total greenhouse gas emissions. Reducing emissions means reducing waste, which offers the opportunity of productivity gains for farmers. I urge farmers to think about this research as an investment in their industry's future."

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