A report from the Interim Climate Change Committee suggesting a special levy and rebate scheme for farmers, which would come into force in 2025, has been widely supported by the primary sector. However, the industry is against a more immediate proposal for processors to be included in the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS), likening it to another tax on farmers.
The Country's Jamie Mackay quizzes Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on today's show about the Climate Change Committee report, and whether the Government is willing to support alternative means of reducing emissions, such as gene editing. Mackay also asks whether Julie Anne Genter's electric vehicle plan is flawed and if the Greens are dragging the Government "down the nanny state one way street".
Mackay: Yesterday the Interim Climate Change Commission report came out. [It was] generally accepted by farming leaders. Prime Minister - has it been accepted by the Greens? And was going out to 2025 a bit of a compromise for you?
Ardern: No, actually the 2025 - that came from the Climate Commission - that actually seems to be the established wisdom that 2025 is really probably the earliest point we'll have the infrastructure available to be able to move to farm-by-farm.
And of course, that's what the farming leaders we've been working with really said, that that is important, so that there can be some recognition of the work that has been done at that individual farm management level.
So really 2025 is really the soonest - but that doesn't mean that we can't be doing things in the interim. So that transition over the next five years, that's now what we're asking for people's views on.
We've managed to get quite a bit of consensus about what happens from 2025 but it's whether or not we do something at processor level, which is what the Interim Climate Commission has said.
Or we've had farming leaders come back and say 'look, we think that we can make progress in between times with more of a voluntary accord' and so we're asking for people's opinions on that.
Mackay: The interim charge on processors is being viewed by farmers as a tax, because it's right across the board. It's a flat rate effectively isn't it?
Ardern: And that's what the Interim Climate Commission has said. Until we can do the farm-by-farm, what do we do in those five years? And they've recommended going at processor level to try and encourage processors to incentivise different practice and so on.
Farming leaders that we've been working with have come back and said "Look, we're not fans of that". Keep in mind though, whatever revenue this generates, the Government does not keep.
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We've always said that whatever comes in via, either farm-by-farm or at processor level, we will put back in to supporting the primary sector in achieving emissions reduction and research.
We benefit not at all from this and it's our view that we shouldn't.
So that's why I really say to people "Be open-minded about how we utilise that additional [money] - if any, if it's at processor level ... because it won't be coming into the Government coffers.
Listen to the full interview below:
Mackay: Was it ever on the table to exclude agriculture completely?
Ardern: Certainly not from our perspective. We've been talking for a long time about the need for, really a comprehensive approach.
You know, if we do want to see the investment in the technology and the research and the development for New Zealand to be world-leading in this area - because this is a challenge we're not the only ones to face - and if we do want to get ahead of this, actually if we're the ones who have found the additional techniques that are going to make a difference to reduce emissions, then really we need some incentives to move.
At the moment those don't structurally exist and so we're trying to create an environment where we see more of that occurring.
Mackay: Are you going to give farmers some tools to fight climate change? And I'm talking here about gene editing, CRISPR stuff like that [or] is that a bridge too far?
Ardern: Obviously we've been investing for some time in research and development. We've also put a significant investment into OVERSEER so we can develop the tools that we need to work on at farm-by-farm level.
In the last Budget just gone we put $229 million into really practical farm extension services and so on, so that we are trying to invest in those practical support mechanisms.
But you're right, there is a debate going on around the role that GM may play in the future. Obviously at this point it's a bit of a hypothetical conversation. The Royal Society's been doing a little bit of work in this area and I'm going to be interested to see what they say.
But I think that we know that this is going to be part of the conversation and we're not closed off to that.
Mackay: As a self-employed person, as a contractor, as a person with a farming background and an interest in farming, my politics probably lean to center-right. But I've quite grown to like you and I like Winston and I like Damien, but do you know what? I'm tiring of the Greens. Julie Anne lecturing me on electric vehicles, Eugenie Sage on plastic bags and now Gareth Hughes to add insult to injury, wants health and climate safety warning stickers on meat. Are you concerned that the Greens are dragging you down the nanny state one-way street and you might not be able to get back out?
Ardern: No. No, look we probably need to differentiate between what's actually being presented by us as a collective Government, where Green ministers are actually presenting what is a Government view, versus what is just Green Party politics or policies.
So Gareth, he's speaking as a Green Party member and look he's entitled to do that - even if we disagree with him.
Mackay: Is Julie Ann Genter's electric vehicle policy a bit flawed? We've heard the examples of Suzuki Swifts which may have a low safety rating getting a discount, whereas we've got something like a Ford Ranger with a very high safety rating that is going to be penalised or have a tax or a fee on it. It seems a bit odd.
Look, we're asking for people's views at the moment on this area, but we are one of only about three countries in the OECD who don't have any regulation or incentives regime around vehicles that are basically low emission and fuel efficient vehicles.
We also have to remember, if we want to take the pressure off our primary sector for carrying the load around emissions, we have to reduce our emissions elsewhere.
Transport's contributing about 20 per cent and so we do need to look at that area and at the moment a vast majority of that is coming from our light vehicles, from the cars that we drive most days.
So we do need to do something in that area. To do nothing means that we then put all of the pressure on other emitters like the primary sector and actually we can't afford to do that to them.
All we're doing here is saying "Look, we'll try and create some incentives". Make those that are low emissions a bit cheaper. Make those that are high emissions, they might have an extra levy.
But it's only for new cars and newly imported cars. About 70 per cent of the cars we buy we tend to buy second hand, Trade Me and the like, those won't be affected by this change - but I do think we need to start making that transition.
Hopefully it might mean a few more ute manufacturers will start thinking about fuel efficient vehicles because the range there isn't that great and we have to acknowledge that.
Also in today's interview: Mackay asks the Prime Minister if New Zealand farmers should be praising the Lord for 'the saviour' Winston Peters.
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