Comment: When it comes to cutting greenhouse gases, the majority of farmers are willing happy to do their part - but not carry the can for the rest of the country, writes Simon Davies, President Federated Farmers Otago.

Well that's that then...so long to a prosperous and vibrant regional New Zealand.

The Zero Carbon bill has passed into law in a form that hasn't changed in any material way from the original version, despite some 13,000 public submissions on the topic.

With the methane reduction target remaining at between 24 per cent and 47 per cent, expect regional economies to start to retrench.

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Note that upper methane reduction target is more than twice the level recommended by Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment (PCE) Simon Upton.

I accept agriculture needs to join efforts to cut greenhouse gases and meet our Paris Agreement commitments. The majority of farmers are willing happy to do their part - but not carry the can for the rest of the country.

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There are two points I want to emphasise. The Paris Agreement, which New Zealand and 194 other nations signed up to, was about reducing greenhouse gases at the same time as safeguarding food production and security to try and end hunger.

Secondly, while fossil fuel burners continue to grow and expand their carbon emissions, they can merrily offset their emissions by planting trees, which is just a 30 year band-aid.

This is just putting off the reality that behaviour has to change – essentially, burning less fossil fuel in our vehicles, power and manufacturing processes.

The methane reduction targets are daunting. The fact is there is currently no way to achieve them without wholesale production cuts.

Simon Davies, President Federated Farmers Otago. Photo / Supplied
Simon Davies, President Federated Farmers Otago. Photo / Supplied

Given we are already the most efficient producers of meat and dairy protein in the world in terms of global warming footprint, what will these reductions in our output achieve?

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While New Zealand stops producing food, others who have considerably higher carbon footprints will pick up the slack and produce more greenhouse gases while doing it. It's a fact I believe this current government desperately wants to brush under the carpet.

Here's a question I'd love to hear Hon. Winston Peters answer. He says NZ First is the party for the regions – so why didn't he and his fellow MPs vote for the very reasonable amendments to the Zero Carbon legislation proposed by National?

Instead they're sitting in Wellington handing nails to the Labour and Greens to belt into the coffin of our provincial economies.

NZ First will need more than a billion dollars (or trees) to make up for the hole that this policy will create in rural New Zealand.

We go to the polls again next year. Last time Winston Peters kept the nation on hold as he dilly-dallied on whether to go with Labour or National.

Rural New Zealand will likely remember that, and the way NZ First has voted on this climate change issue, when they go to vote again in 2020.