Climate change is a global problem, and greenhouse gases emitted by one country affect all others.
The big item hitting the news in the last two weeks has been farming agreeing to enter the ETS and pay five per cent of its estimated greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. This is a major achievement, but what struck me was the negative, almost hysterical reaction, painting farmers as climate villains not carrying their fair share of the burden.
Some statements were just plain wrong. Climate change is a global problem, and GHG emitted by one country affect all others. Therefore the actions each country takes must be done with the global perspective in mind. Anything less and we risk exacerbating the problem.
Let me give an example. New Zealand dairy farmers emit 0.89kg C02 per kilo of milk; the global average is 2.4kg per kilo. If dairy cows in New Zealand are halved, we may meet our GHG targets, but this would result in increased global methane emission worldwide as other less efficient countries pick up the shortfall.
GHG emitters need to reduce their emissions, but realistic targets and aspirations must be applied in a manner that is consistent across all emitters, fair, accurately calculated, and reflects their nett greenhouse gas emissions in a global context.
Recently I completed an excellent online carbon calculator for my property. This calculator, from the Carbon Neutral NZ Trust, takes into account your grass, trees, diet, power usage, fuel burned and much more. It is designed for urban dwellers and lifestyle properties to create awareness of their GHG emissions. My results showed I was a significant carbon sink, even after allowing for methane emissions from all my animals, deer in this case. Nett farm emissions must be accounted for when considering total farm GHG emissions. Don't consider just one aspect of farm emissions, methane, and ignore the whole.
Why not treat all GHG emitters equally? Forestry, for example, a big carbon sink, also emits methane. If forestry was treated the same way as dairy farming then forestry farmers, and I'm one of them, would not receive any credits for the carbon they have sequestered, but would be expected to pay for the carbon they have emitted in the form of methane. Let's treat all emitters fairly. Remember, recent reports showed farm emissions in New Zealand dropped by about 2 per cent, while those from urban sources increased, resulting in a nett increase for New Zealand.
The Paris agreement and agenda for sustainable development provide a global context not only for climate change, but also ending poverty and hunger, making cities more sustainable, improving health and education and protecting the environment. Social and economic impacts need to be considered also.
Finally, please don't confuse man-made localised environmental damage through cutting down trees, sewage spills, dumping of rubbish, with global climate effects. Local environmental damage can be fixed by local action, but global climate change can only be fixed by agreement from all countries on the best actions each country must take from a global perspective.