The Dairy Companies Association of New Zealand (DCANZ) supports the Carbon Zero Bill’s objectives, to provide a framework by which New Zealand can develop and implement clear and stable climate change policies and is committed to appropriate action. However, DCANZ is concerned that adoption of methane targets that go beyond the level required to prevent the gas contributing to additional global warming, will risk significant economic upheaval for no atmospheric gain.
“Achieving stable policy outcomes will require strong institutional structures and processes like those envisaged for the Climate Change Commission” says DCANZ Executive Director Kimberly Crewther. “But also, long-term targets which are robustly applicable to the objectives and New Zealand circumstances”.
“DCANZ is clear on our support for targets that achieve no-additional contribution to warming by 2050, but is concerned these methane numbers push well beyond that”.
“The sector is not asking for a free-pass. We agree that all parts of the economy should make no additional contribution to warming by 2050, but much more is being asked.”
New Zealand is world leading in terms of low emissions milk production (with 2.5 times less emissions per litre than the global average and 20-30% better than European competitors) and significant efforts are being made to do even better. DCANZ is concerned that placing a burden on the livestock sectors for greater cuts in methane than scientific advice suggests are necessary risks significant cost to regions and jobs.
“We could find ourselves in a position where we are the world’s lowest emissions milk supplier, have achieved the methane reductions necessary for there to be no additional contribution to warming, and still fall short of these targets without cutting production” says Crewther. “In that situation our production will move offshore to places with higher emissions, resulting in more methane globally".
This scenario would have far reaching consequences. Dairy exports account for 20% of New Zealand export earnings and deliver more than 10% of regional GDP in Waikato, Taranaki, West Coast, and Southland. The dairy sector is also a major employer in many districts, for example 1 in every 4 jobs in South Taranaki.
The proposed targets for absolute cuts in methane will rely on new technologies not currently available.
A 10% methane target by 2030 and a reduction range of 24-47% by 2050 go well beyond what DCANZ understands is required. A 2018 report for the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment suggested a reduction of 10 % or up to 22% by 2050 may be needed for New Zealand methane to have no additional warming, with the higher number being based on other countries also being ambitious.
The proposed methane target also precludes the use of offsets if new technologies are not available within the necessary timeframes. DCANZ questions why this is, with the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment recently having suggested that use of offsets was most appropriate for methane and nitrous oxide from agriculture.
DCANZ recommends the targets are revised to reflect what is needed to ensure no-additional warming from methane. A just transition for the New Zealand economy will best be achieved by setting targets based on an equivalent contribution from all gases, not by placing a disproportionate burden on agriculture and regional economies.