New Zealand's farmers will continue to work on their carbon emissions and water efficiencies on-farm, despite the government's "hugely unrealistic targets" for methane, says Federated Farmers.

"The government has missed a golden opportunity to take its farmers along with them. We will keep working to achieve lower emissions, but the pressure of this unattainable goal will eventually weigh heavily on some farmers," vice president and climate change spokesman Andrew Hoggard said.

"To say that we are disappointed with the reporting back by the Select Committee on the Zero Carbon Bill is a significant understatement".

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After months of scrutiny from MPs from both sides of the political aisle, the environmental select committee on Monday released its much-anticipated report on the Zero Carbon Bill.

It showed the legislation's original commitment to reducing biological methane – greenhouse emission from cows and sheep – by between 24-47 per cent below 2017 levels by 2050, remained in place.

This is despite intense lobbying for the targets to be fixed, not at a range, at either 24 or 47 per cent.

Federated Farmers released a statement saying the decision placed a huge burden on farmers "already feeling the heat from this government", and that others shared its views on methane's warming impact.

"Leading international climate scientists say we need to completely review the way the impact of livestock emissions as a major contributor to climate change is calculated" the statement said.

Feds said the science showed that a 10 per cent reduction by 2050, followed by stable emissions, was all that was required for methane from New Zealand's livestock to no longer contribute to increased global temperatures.

"New Zealand's methane emissions from stock are already trending down. Unlike other greenhouse gas emissions, like C02" Hoggard said.

However, the Select Committee stayed with the 24 per cent to 47 per cent reduction target, which the Feds claimed was based on an international study which had "no relevance to methane's global warming effect and whose authors stated it should not be used by individual countries".


The only way to meet the Paris Agreement goal of restricting further increases in global temperatures was to reduce the production of carbon dioxide from the burning of fossil fuels said Hoggard.

"We can't forget the Paris Agreement aims to reduce emissions without harming food production".

Federated Farmers vice president and climate change spokesman Andrew Hoggard. Photo / Supplied
Federated Farmers vice president and climate change spokesman Andrew Hoggard. Photo / Supplied

The Paris Agreement stated that: "Increasing the ability to adapt to the adverse impacts of climate change and foster climate resilience and low greenhouse gas emissions development, in a manner that does not threaten food production".

"Given the government's methane targets will force the replacement of sheep and cattle with pine trees, so unless sawdust is suddenly edible, then it seems we are also ignoring the Paris Agreement" said Hoggard.

If the government had set targets based on what was actually required to achieve no additional warming, then this would have provided farmers with the ability to be rewarded for going past those targets and achieving "cooling effects" said Hoggard.

"We could have utilised this to our advantage in marketing our products as 'warming neutral'".

"Our products are already world leading in their footprint and reducing production in New Zealand will only drive increased emissions offshore".

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the range was based on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)'s science, which cited international evidence.

She was confident the bill still struck the right balance.

The legislation's commitment to reducing all greenhouse gas emissions, aside from biogenic methane, to net-zero by 2050 also remained unchanged.