The methane target in the Zero Carbon bill is an "unsubstantiated aspiration" that will cause lasting damage to rural communities and the standard of living of all New Zealanders, says Federated Farmers.

The industry advocacy body addressed the Select Committee hearing on the Bill this morning.

"Federated Farmers agrees with the current text in the Bill on the need to achieve net zero carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide in the NZ agricultural industry by 2050," Feds climate change spokesman Andrew Hoggard said.

"This ambitious support is in spite of the industry being heavily reliant on reliable energy supply and internal combustion powered vehicles for transport, both of which produce carbon dioxide, and despite the task of agriculture reducing nitrous oxide to net zero being incredibly challenging."

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Read more from Federated Farmers here.

Farmers embraced this challenge because those two gases were long-lived and built up in the atmosphere, so New Zealand - and the world - needed to get those gases to net zero as quickly as possible, Hoggard said.

But methane, which was belched by livestock, was a short-lived gas that produced almost no additional warming and flowed in and out of the atmosphere if emitted at a constant rate, he said.

Macaulay Jones (left), Andrew Hoggard and Terry Copeland outside Parliament. Photo / Supplied
Macaulay Jones (left), Andrew Hoggard and Terry Copeland outside Parliament. Photo / Supplied

The science said NZ agriculture needed to reduce methane by about 0.3 per cent a year, or about 10 per cent by 2050, to have no additional warming effect - or in other words a zero carbon equivalent, Hoggard said.

Yet a 10 per cent target had been set for 2030 - much earlier than for any other sector of society - and up to 47 per cent methane reductions by 2050.

Hoggard told the Select Committee that appeared to be "because it seems easier to tell people to consume less animal-based protein than it is to cut back on trips to Bali."

"If that is the case then let's be open and honest and admit the agriculture sector is being asked to do more than its share."

Climate Change Minister James Shaw had challenged those disagreeing with the proposed targets to explain why he shouldn't follow the advice of the IPCC.

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Federated Farmers provided three main reasons:

• A key piece of advice in the relevant IPCC's 2018 report was not to use the numbers from that report as precise national targets,

• The report also recommended a much lower target for nitrous oxide but Federated Farmers is ignoring that as it is a long-lived gas.

• Finally, the report modelled numerous pathways that all achieved the 1.5 degree warming target. In some of those pathways biogenic methane actually increased. Economists pondered those pathways to work out the least cost to the globe of achieving the target, not the least cost to New Zealand.

"This report was clearly not designed to be copy and pasted into our domestic legislation. Modelling on what is the least cost to the economy for New Zealand to do its part hasn't been done," Hoggard said.

Listen to The Country's Rowena Duncum's interview with Andrew Hoggard below:

Answering Select Committee member questions, Hoggard suggested there was a strong case for rewarding or incentivising farmers to go beyond 10 per cent by 2050 methane cuts.

Methane reductions beyond 10 per cent would actually have a cooling effect on the planet and in effect was the same as planting trees to sequester carbon, a practice rewarded through the ETS.

But planting trees with a 30-year life before harvest was only a temporary solution, and blanketing productive farmland with pines would kill off jobs, spending and inhabitants that rural communities depended on.

However, if farmers achieved the 10 per cent methane reductions that ensured no additional warming, and were rewarded for striving for additional reductions, there was incentive to invest in additional emissions reduction technology.

"That keeps the rural community going, and reduces global warming - a win/win situation."