Comment: Reducing greenhouse gas emissions is definitely important, but we must not ignore world poverty and zero hunger, writes Macaulay Jones, Federated Farmers policy advisor climate change and trade.

Action on climate change is deservedly gaining attention, and resolve to take action, from many New Zealanders - not least our politicians.

But in our drive to reduce greenhouse gas emissions we should not forget the concurrent goals of 'no poverty' and 'zero hunger' agreed at the same international forums.

The Zero Carbon Bill (ZCB) is a landmark piece of legislation that establishes a long-term framework for New Zealand to meet the 13th United Nations Sustainable Development Goal (SDG), that being 'climate action'.


We're well-positioned to lead the world in climate action.

Read more from Federated Farmers here.

Our proud history of not shying away from large water storage infrastructure projects and shrewd investment in dams means we have enough renewable electricity to meet 60 per cent of all current demand. New Zealand makes up a miserly 0.17 per cent of all global emissions.

Despite New Zealand's total emissions being equivalent to a rounding error from one of the large global emitters, such as China, India and the United States, there is strong bottom-up support for continued improvement.

This resolve to take urgent climate action is emblematic of a national 'can do' attitude.

Troublingly, while support for the 13th SDG is demonstrated by everyone from vocal school children to the Prime Minister, support for the 1st and 2nd SDG is showing signs of wavering.

The 1st and 2nd SDGs are to achieve 'no poverty' and 'zero hunger' respectively by 2030 and to focus on tangibly improving the lives of the most vulnerable people on the planet.

Incredibly, in 2010 humanity managed to meet the previously set 1st Millennial Development Goal (MDG) of 'halving abject poverty' and over 1 billion people have been lifted out of extreme poverty since 1990. That's a stunningly positive story that receives insufficient media attention.


However, despite these improvements, over 800 million people still live on less than US$1.90 a day, and malnutrition kills about 3.1 million children every year.

It is a cruel reality of 2019 that while many take modern amenities, such as smart phones, air travel and home heating, for granted there are hundreds of millions of people without enough to eat.

New Zealanders should be proud that as a nation we produce enough food to feed ten times our population, and enough dairy to meet the needs of 100 million people.

But just as achieving 80 per cent electricity generation from renewable sources does not demonstrate sufficient ambition in the fight against climate change, New Zealand should strive to do more towards providing as much safe, affordable and nutritious food to as many people as sustainably possible.

To embrace the challenge set by the 1st and 2nd SDGs, our society must appreciate, not vilify, farmers, as modern agriculture is the core means of truly empowering the world's most vulnerable.

The global population is predicted to grow to almost 10 billion by 2050. This, coupled with the (hopefully) continued rising living standards of the world's poor means demand for high quality New Zealand food will continue to soar.

If the planet completely breaks away from logic and fully adopts the ridiculous EAT Lancet diet, with draconian restrictions on milk consumption to unhealthily low levels, world dairy production is nonetheless still required to double by 2050 to meet expected demand.

New Zealand farmers are incredibly good at producing food such as meat and milk in the most economically and environmentally efficient manner.

So much so that it is better for the climate to drink a glass of New Zealand milk in Europe than consuming the locally subsidised product; this is true even after the long trip the product has taken to get to your glass is taken into account.

The biogenic methane targets in the Zero Carbon Bill should be adjusted to a level that is equivalent to the additional warming impact of all other greenhouse gases.

A more sensible target should also recognise the importance of New Zealand playing it's parting in not only meeting the 13th SDG, but also the 1st and 2nd.

Our agricultural sector is eager to embrace the challenge of farming in an increasingly climate conscious world, but legislation must meet the industry half-way and place an equal burden on agriculture to that placed on the rest of New Zealand.

By altering the biogenic methane reduction targets to levels that scientists tell us will ensure there is no additional global warming impact, the Zero Carbon legislation can give New Zealand the opportunity to demonstrate to the world how to take climate action, but without sacrificing food production.

Real global leadership is showing the world how to farm smarter, and not simply farming less.