The Zero Carbon Bill’s objective is to prevent any further atmospheric warming. This year we’ll see a 2050 target chosen, requiring all sectors to reduce their emissions. We’ll also see the establishment of an Independent Climate Change Commission to advise short-term reduction budgets for each sector towards 2050.
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. As a sector, it is in our interests to think about what actions and changes we can make to the way we farm in order for dairy to play its part in transitioning New Zealand to a low emissions economy.
Over the past two years, DairyNZ has been researching options to reduce biological emissions on different farm systems. We’ve also been looking at each option’s impacts 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.
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 imminently, 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, go to dairynz.co.nz/mitigation
The 2050 target
DairyNZ supports a split gas approach to setting a new 2050 target. This means New Zealand will reduced long lived gases like nitrous oxide and carbon dioxide to net zero and reduce and stabilise short-lived gases by 2050.
The scientific evidence shows methane can be reduced and stabilised because of its shorter life cycle, which is the equivalent outcome to net zero. We are committed to working with Government to decide just how much methane needs to reduce.
Climate Change Commission
It is proposed that an independent Climate Change Commission is set up to advise the Government on emissions budgets, priority industries, and other climate change related issues. Dairy NZ would like to see the Commission maintain an advisory capacity in its advice to the Government (rather than holding any decision-making powers).
Set emission budgets
Emission budgets will set out how much greenhouse gas New Zealand can emit over a shorter period of time, for example the consultation proposed budgets are set for five year periods. These stepping stones are designed to ensure we are on track to meet our larger 2050 target.
Climate change adaptation
Regardless of the target chosen, New Zealand needs to be planning for a different climate. The consultation proposes a national adaptation plan be prepared to ensure New Zealand has a comprehensive approach to climate change risks. 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.