It's simple. We cannot plant our way out of the climate crisis. Relying on offsets to reduce agriculture's impact on the climate will not work.
The Green Party has been saying for years that we need to change the way we farm in order to reduce emissions. And last week we got the evidence for exactly why.
A new report by the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment showed it would take a massive 6000 square metres of pine forest to offset the methane emissions from a single dairy cow. And another 4000 square metres of pine forest to offset the emissions from a single beef animal. That's the equivalent of a rugby field of pine trees for just two animals.
The message is clear: there is no realistic amount of trees that can absorb enough methane and nitrous oxide emissions from agriculture. Relying on forest offsets won't work for farmers, rural communities, our climate, or our economy.
Which is why it is so important the Government step up other responses, like boosting support for regenerative farming and phasing down synthetic nitrogen fertiliser and imported supplementary feeds like palm kernel expeller (PKE).
PKE and nitrogen fertiliser provide cheap feed for intensive high-emission farming in Aotearoa, especially in the dairy sector. This drives up climate pollution right at the time it should be decreasing. And it is a far cry from the grass-fed, sustainable products people here and overseas expect from New Zealand farmers.
The Green Party has always been clear that by taking the right decisions now we can build a thriving and sustainable farming sector that is good for farmers, good for communities, and good for the planet. The Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment's analysis brought these decisions into sharp focus.
Government reports have shown the potential for regenerative agriculture to contribute to our response to the climate crisis. The funding in Budget 2022 to provide guidance for farmers was a good nod in the right direction.
It is time to step up, learn from the reports and science and boost the support available to farmers to take up regenerative techniques on their farms and reduce herd sizes. This can be done while increasing profitability.
Regenerative farming practices enhance water and soil quality, enable food production at levels that don't push agriculture beyond the limits of our ecosystems, and safeguard the climate.
• Teanau Tuiono is a Green list MP based in Palmerston North.