The agricultural emissions deal proposed by the Government is one of those agreements where both sides of the debate have serious misgivings, and understandably so.

In that sense, it can be argued this is one of those reasonably fair and practical outcomes.

We shall see. There is a lot of methane to be emitted before we will know. There are lots of questions and lots of imponderables.

But, as has been said, it is a start.

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Farming groups had been vehemently opposed to any such levy - remember the fart tax debate and a tractor on the steps of Parliament - but now recognise something has to be done, or at least seen to be done.

New Zealand, with its largely grass-fed livestock industry, is by world standards more efficient on emissions than just about anywhere else. But this country's pastoral farming still belches out large amounts of methane and carbon dioxide.

The methane might dissipate in the atmosphere much more quickly than CO2, but it is much more potent while there.

Many farmers have come to realise the reality of international pressures and a changing world. If they are not seen to be on-board with climate change mitigation, they are in danger of crucial international image damage.

Reputation is vital when artificial ''meat'' is on the move, vegetarianism is growing in the West and climate change issues are making their impact, and when New Zealand needs to go down the high-value route.

The whole emissions area is complex, and it is impressive the Interim Climate Change Committee (ICCC) has come up with a proposal, albeit there will be differences and difficulties over the details.

At least it is a beginning when something has to be achieved. Agriculture is, so it is said, responsible for 50 per cent of New Zealand emissions.

Without agriculture being a willing participant, this country's efforts could only be seen as half-hearted at best.

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Initially, the 95 per cent discount on emissions - in line with other industries at the current New Zealand Emissions Trading Scheme price of $25 a tonne - is estimated to be worth about $1500 on an average-sized dairy farm.

Sensibly, initial money collected would go towards a farmer-led fund to allow them to set up measurement tools before 2025.

The likes of research on grasses that lead to lower methane production is also essential. It is disappointing there has not been a much more urgent push on this over the past decade.

An underlying weakness in both the ETS and the proposals so far should be acknowledged.

So far, at least, the levies act like a broad tax. In industry and on farms, there are no direct incentives to do better. The progressive farmer lowering admissions pays the same as the laggard.

Somehow, as time proceeds, that needs to change.

As Agricultural Minister Damien O'Connor said, both the Government and farmers want emissions to be calculated at the farm level where farmers have the most control over their own emissions on their property.

This is all a balancing act because of this country's reliance on livestock. Kill the golden calf and New Zealand's standard of living will tumble. Many city dwellers do not realise the extent of this dependence.

The ICCC has also taken a pragmatic approach on electricity production. Making 100 per cent of electricity renewable by 2035 sounded nice in theory. In practice, the last few percent would require an over-build of infrastructure for a meagre drop in emissions and a much higher price for electricity.

Far better, as the ICCC said, to put effort and money towards accelerating electrification of transport.

Farmers agreeing to pay for livestock emissions from 2025 is a breakthrough. Ahead lies the devilish detail.

- This editorial was originally published in the Otago Daily Times.