How is it possible that the world's most efficient farmers are expected to reduce their production, and less efficient farmers expected to pick up the shortfall?
Reading DairyNZ's comments in Tuesday's Northland Age about the impact on farming of the government's fresh water proposals reminds me again of the risks and dangers we all face with rushed policies without a full understanding of the problem, viable solutions and resultant consequences.
A recent Ministry of Health report showed suicide was up 20 per cent in rural areas, compared to a drop of 10 per cent in cities and towns. I can't but wonder why we seem to be following a path of destroying our farming and ineffectively addressing the real issues. In a world that is very likely to top out at 11 billion people there is going to be increasing pressure on farming to feed this population, and accurately apportioning GHG emissions in a global context is critical.
The climate change Paris agreement recognises this, and their agenda for sustainable development provides a global context not only for climate change, but also ending poverty and hunger, making cities more sustainable, improving health and education and protecting the environment. Social and economic impacts are part of the accord.
Ninety per cent of our produce is exported, yet we attribute the total farming GHG emissions to New Zealand, while our food exports help the importing countries feed their populations and reduce their carbon emissions. Total GHG gases emissions for NZ lamb on UK shelves is less than locally produced lamb. How is it possible that the world's most efficient farmers are expected to reduce their production, and less efficient farmers expected to pick up the shortfall? It's because we are not factoring in the total nett effect on the planet.
Then we have the inconsistent way we treat farm-related emissions compared with other industries. One example: farmers are not being allowed to directly offset their methane emissions by planting trees, or using current plantations on their properties. Achieving zero carbon emissions is physically impossible. Achieving nett zero carbon emissions is possible, but only by offsetting GHG emissions through various carbon sinks.
The greatest carbon sink available to NZ is farm soil. Growing trees, like growing any vegetation left to reach equilibrium, is a one-off carbon sink. Not so with farm soil. In the NZ Herald (August 20) Phyllis Tichinin said research had shown up to 10 tonnes of carbon per hectare per year could be sequestered using regenerative grazing techniques. If only 1.5 tonnes of carbon per hectare were to be sequestered, that would equate to 61 megatonnes of carbon a year. "That's more than our total nett carbon emissions, just from sequestering a pretty minor amount. That means going beyond carbon neutrality to being carbon-negative."
If we are to tackle this problem then we must do so in a united manner that directly involves everyone. Creating factions and causing divisions will at best cause mistrust, stress and financial loss. At worst it will hasten the destruction of our economy, our environment, and ultimately our planet.