National aims to introduce a farm-level emissions levy by 2025 if it wins next year’s election, but the party won’t commit to it yet.
That’s according to National’s acting agriculture spokesman Todd Muller, who says his party will not impose a levy at the processor-level if the 2025 deadline is not met - something the current Government said it wanted to do in an announcement yesterday.
While Muller’s intention would be to establish an emissions levy by 2025 that could factor in individual farm practices to reduce gross greenhouse gas production, he confirmed a National government would not impose a levy until an “effective” and “practicable” solution was found in partnership with the agricultural sector.
“We intend to have it priced on farm-level and ideally that would happen and be able to start in 2025,” Muller told the Herald.
“That would be the absolute best endeavour I would seek to do as the minister of agriculture, but I have no visibility of the ability of the sector in true partnership with the government to stand that up in time and there needs to be a real focus on doing that well and practicably.”
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, alongside ministers and sector representatives, unveiled the Government’s updated plan to price farming emissions outside of the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS), following a submission period after a consultation document was released in October.
The Government has committed to a 10 per cent reduction in methane emissions from agriculture and landfills by 2030, going up to a 24 to 47 per cent reduction by 2050, compared to 2017 levels. It comes alongside a net-zero emissions target for 2050.
October’s consultation document received significant backlash concerning how the plan could push sheep and beef farmers to transition land into trees and how farmers might not be rewarded for their efforts to suck up carbon like planting native bush.
Yesterday, Ardern and others detailed the plan which included introducing the “lowest possible” levy for five years from 2025 to achieve the emission targets.
“They are ambitious timelines but we remain committed to them,” Ardern said.
If the levy was not finalised by 2025, an interim levy directed at processors of milk, meat and fertiliser would be applied.
Several sector groups, including Federated Farmers, DairyNZ and the Meat Industry Association, opposed the interim levy as it risked forcing cost burdens on farmers implementing emission-reducing measures.
Ardern said the Government agreed an interim processor-level levy would not be the best solution and a farm-level levy would be better. The only reason for the backstop was the 2025 timeline was “very ambitious”.
“Our goal remains farm-by-farm.”
Muller was highly critical of the Government’s development of farm emission pricing, claiming it had wasted time by not listening to the sector.
With a general election less than a year away, Muller confirmed a National government would not impose an interim levy until a farm-based approach was arranged.
“We are not going to automatically go to charging them a processor levy, we want it done on farms, done once, done properly.”
Ardern yesterday referenced the extensive collaboration between the Government and He Waka Eke Noa, a partnership of agriculture sector bodies including Beef+Lamb NZ, DairyNZ, Dairy Companies Association of New Zealand, Meat Industry Association and more.
In its joint submission regarding the October consultation document, He Waka Eke Noa advocated for emissions pricing to be capped at no more than 8 cents per kg of methane in the five years to 2030, beginning at no more than 5 cents per kg in 2025.
Muller said he saw merit in this proposal.
“I think it’s a sensible starting point with the sector, bearing in mind we would want to reset this relationship from the very tense and fraught relationship that exists at the moment.”
Ardern wouldn’t discuss pricing specifics, noting that more information would be provided by March, including how sequestration - the process of sucking up the gases produced through measures like planting - could be used to offset the price farmers paid for their own emissions.
Yesterday’s plan also included the set-up of an oversight board representative of the sector, which would work alongside the Climate Change Commission to establish emissions pricing.