New Zealand farmers are already world leaders when it comes to climate change writes Andrew Hoggard, Federated Farmers Climate Change spokesperson.

I'm just back from Korea, where apart from the learnings from the conference, I was struck by the massive difference between the world I live in, on my farm, and the world the Korean city dwellers inhabit.

There's my farm - all green grass, relaxed cows and gently swaying trees - and then there's the sights around me in Korea, where you can't see where one city ends and another starts. Masses of skyscrapers under construction, cars everywhere. Cars, people, buildings.

It left me thinking, "how is the doom of the planet my bloody fault?"


I was in South Korea for the World Dairy Summit. I was very interested to hear one of the speakers mention that a 30 per cent reduction in methane was achievable from dairy farms with available technology, whilst maintaining production.

Now we have heard this claim repeated here in New Zealand. But this speaker was meaning in a global context, that globally this could be done.

So that left me thinking, hang on, New Zealand's emissions footprint per kg of milk is something like 10 to 20 per cent lower than the rest of the developed world, and we are only 10 -20 per cent of the footprint of the developed world.

Read more from Federated Farmers here.

So at a global level there is scope for reductions, and the answer is therefore really simple for the rest of the planet's dairy industries - do what NZ does.

The Paris Agreement, which New Zealand ratified in 2016, calls for the planet to limit its warming to well below 2 degrees by the end of the century, and to strive for a 1.5 degrees target.

Methane is the dominant gas emitted from pastoral agriculture and it is very short lived in the atmosphere, as opposed to carbon dioxide. Thus, stabilising methane emissions will result in a static concentration of the gas in the atmosphere.

Once you start talking about splitting gases and measuring their individual impacts, then you have to start talking about metrics. 'Metric' meaning the 'model' used to measure the impact.


A new variation to the metric that is currently used to model methane, Global Warming Potential 100, takes into account the 'short-lived' impact of methane. This metric has been developed by leading climate scientists here in New Zealand, and from offshore. This metric is known as the GWP*.

A number of people seem to be threatened by this talk around GWP*, because they seem to think it results in farmers getting away with something. There is this almost cult-like mindset amongst some of them, that there must be pain before we can feel virtuous.

But what the GWP* shows is that so long as methane emissions are only 99.7 per cent of what they were the previous year then they will not contribute to any additional warming.

So this would equate to needing something like a 10 per cent reduction by 2050. It is not saying that methane doesn't create warming, it does and has, but our focus is on the future, not on the past.

There is a historical contribution of methane to the warming we have experienced till now, but looking forward if we stick with the 0.3 per cent per annum reduction, and then over time we can afford to stabilise, then methane from livestock anyway will not contribute to further warming.

Far from letting farmers off, methane accounts for 80 per cent of my farm biological emissions but I still have nitrous oxide at 20 per cent, which needs to be offset or preferably reduced somehow. And of course I am no different to every other New Zealander in being exposed to the ETS for CO2.

So I will face the same real challenges every other Kiwi business and family will face in the goal of being net zero for CO2, through electricity and fuel costs. But if I can do that, then my farm is in effect not adding to any increase in warming.

New Zealand demonstrating global leadership on the issue of biological emissions should mean showing the world how to farm smarter, and not simply farming less.

We are already doing this. We have the metrics to prove it.