Beef + Lamb New Zealand (B+LNZ) says it has renewed its call for the Government to put in place tangible measures that will lead to real reductions in carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel use - and limit the amount of pollution that can be offset through carbon farming.
B+LNZ released this statement after the Government declared a climate change emergency yesterday.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the move was a "declaration based on science."
Ardern also announced a suite of new measures in a bid to curb climate change, including a goal to make the entire public sector carbon neutral by 2025.
However, Environment Policy Manager at B+LNZ Dylan Muggeridge said "the science tells us that carbon dioxide emissions need to decrease significantly if the global community is to meet the temperature goals set in the Paris Agreement, yet carbon dioxide emissions have increased by nearly 40 percent in New Zealand since the 1990s."
Muggeridge said the changes made to the emissions trading legislation earlier this year provided "huge incentives for fossil fuel emitters to offset their emissions through large-scale planting of exotic trees, rather than incentives to change behaviour, reduce emissions and decarbonise the economy."
Evidence showed that this afforestation was likely to take place mainly on productive sheep and beef farmland which, if unconstrained, "would have dramatic impacts on hill country farmers, the food they produce and the rural communities and economies they support," Muggeridge said.
"The Government must address this issue promptly in its new term, or its climate change response will have devastating consequences for the agricultural sector, a sector that has been so crucial in New Zealand's ability to navigate its way through the Covid-19 pandemic."
The Government will take advice from the Climate Change Commission on pathways to reduce emissions next year, Muggeridge said.
"We look forward to the Commission's advice, and we want to work with the Government on finding solutions to deliver the right outcomes for New Zealand.
Muggeridge said the sheep and beef sector was committed to playing its part in responding to climate change and had already made "significant strides" in reducing its emissions and footprint.
"Absolute greenhouse gas emissions from New Zealand sheep and beef production have reduced by 30 per cent since 1990, whilst maintaining similar levels of production."
"In addition, independent research by Auckland University of Technology recently found New Zealand's sheep and beef farms are offsetting a significant amount of their emissions through native and exotic vegetation integrated on farms.
Muggeridge said B+LNZ urged the Government to better acknowledge and recognise the efforts of farmers.
"It is important farmers get formal recognition for the sequestration happening on their farms."
In addition to sequestering carbon, this vegetation delivers wider benefits for New Zealand's biodiversity and freshwater ecosystems, he said.
"We are also a partner in He Waka Eke Noa, which aims to come up with a farm-level system that works for farmers while delivering the greenhouse gas emissions reductions and on-farm offsets."
The agricultural sector had invested over $60 million over the last decade in developing technologies to reduce agricultural emissions through the Pastoral Greenhouse Gas Consortium, Muggeridge said.
"We have already identified ways to reduce emissions from sheep through selective breeding and we're also working on other tools like feed additives and methanogens."
"We also support further efforts by farmers to offset their emissions through the integration of native and exotic trees on their farms."