New Zealand is already one of the lowest emissions producers of dairy nutrition in the world but, right now, the dairy sector is responsible for 22.5 percent of all New Zealand’s emissions. We are committed to playing our part in addressing climate change for the emissions we produce on-farm.
The Government’s Zero Carbon Bill will put in place targets to reduce all greenhouse gases:
- Carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide have to reduce to net zero by 2050.
- Methane has a 2030 target to reduce by 10%, and a provisional target of 24-47% reduction by 2050
DairyNZ does not support the provisional range for the 2050 methane reduction target. Throughout the select committee process this year we will be seeking an amendment to the 2050 target so that it is aligned with the recommendations made by the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, of 10 - 22 per cent reduction in methane. When combined with our commitment on nitrous oxide to net zero, this is an equitable, yet ambitious and challenging target, that is grounded in science.
This transition to low emissions will require continued investment for research and development to ensure a technological solution is available to New Zealand farmers by 2050. Alongside this, we will be working with Government and industry to ensure education, training and expert advice is available for farmers as part of a transition package.
The 2030 target
The Government has announced a short term target for methane of 10 per cent reduction by 2030. Although this target will be a challenge for the agricultural sector, we will make every effort to get there as we acknowledge we need to all move in the same direction. We see this target as a first step.
Our research has shown us there is some action that farmers can take, and are already taking, to reduce on-farm emissions that could provide up to a 10 per cent reduction. We’ve also been looking at how these actions impact on farm productivity and profitability.
What we’ve learned already is that it’s possible to achieve incremental emissions reductions by making changes to our farm management. Our dairy sector is already one of the lowest emissions milk producers in the world, but small changes can help us to improve.
To achieve the 2030 target we need farmers to have access to emissions estimation tools and support to use these tools, and expert advice about farm management changes best suited to their farm and system.
What does this mean for farmers?
Each farm will need to estimate its current emissions and, over time, develop a farm-specific plan to manage and reduce these emissions through farm management improvements. Although any level of emissions reduction represents a challenge for our sector, we think it needs to be managed alongside the broader environmental issues, like water quality, biodiversity and erosion control.
Changes won’t come into effect immediately, but there are steps farmers can start taking now to prepare.
- Know your numbers – calculate your on-farm emissions. Overseer can do this.
- Think about what farm management changes you could make to reduce your emissions.
Here are two to consider:
- Improve feed efficiency – this is the best way to reduce methane emissions. Research shows there’s a direct correlation between feed intake and methane produced.
- Reduce and improve your use of nitrogen fertiliser – this is the best way to reduce nitrous oxide emissions.
- Also, keep an eye out for future technologies being developed. For example, a slow-release methane inhibitor, achieving a 30 to 50 percent reduction in methane, is likely to be available to farmers by 2050.
To learn more about how you can reduce emissions on your farm see the Mitigation options page.
Climate Change Commission
An independent Climate Change Commission will be set up to advise the Government on emissions reduction targets through advice, guidance, and regular five-yearly “emissions budgets”. Emissions budgets act as stepping stones to guide New Zealand towards the larger 2050 target.
Five yearly reviews of targets
The proposed five yearly reviews of the reduction targets will ensure the reduction we are working towards is fair compared to the reductions made by other sectors, such as transport, and the reduction commitments made by other countries. It will also take into consideration the technological solutions and mitigations available to farmers.
Climate change adaptation
The Bill also creates a legal obligation on the Government to plan for how it will support New Zealand towns and cities, business, farmers and Iwi to adapt to the increasingly severe storms, floods, fires and droughts we are experiencing as a result of climate change.
Regardless of the target chosen, New Zealand needs to be planning for a different climate. DairyNZ supports a commitment to plan early and avoid sudden change. This will allow all sectors to transition over time.
Public consultation was carried out over June and July 2018. You can read DairyNZ's submission here.
Read more about options to reduce your greenhouse gases here.