15, Jul, 2003

Government should stay firm with methane levy

Category: ECO Inc

Federated Farmers' campaign to get out of paying the methane levy is hypocritical and self-indulgent and should be ignored as the temper tantrum of a spoilt child says the Environment and Conservation Organisations of NZ (ECO).

If the farmers refuse to pay the methane reduction research levy, then the government should bring forward the greenhouse gas charges and ask them to pay those instead, says ECO Chairperson, Cath Wallace.

"Farmers are already being indulged. At $8million they are being asked to pay a fraction of the research costs. This is peanuts compared with an estimated $125 million if they were to pay a charge of $25/tonne carbon equivalent for methane emissions greater than the 1990 base line.*

"Federated Farmers is making environmentally responsible farmers cringe. Many farmers are well aware that farmers bleating about droughts and floods one minute, and then refusing to pay even a fraction of the costs of the research to reduce the climate-altering pollution their industry is causing, just does not stack up. This is even more so when that research is likely to have the double dividend of increased productivity of feed conversion by animals.

"Federated Farmers is doing everyone a disservice. The problem is real: the Feds need to get real too. This is not a problem that the government is creating: it is a problem that we all have to respond to and we all have to take our share of the cost of responding."

"It is not good enough for Federated Farmers to suggest that somehow, when it comes to them, polluter pays does not apply. More than half of New Zealand's greenhouse gas emissions (in carbon equivalent terms) are methane, and most of that comes from livestock."

"Farmers who agree that climate change is a serious issue and who recognise the need to reduce emissions for the sake of the future, say that they are deeply embarrassed at the way Federated Farmers and other farm organisations are behaving. As one put it to me, Federated Farmer's response to the problem is "infantile and embarrassing".

"It is childish - and factually incorrect - to imply that the emissions from sheep and cattle is flatulence. It is well known that 95% of the methane emissions from these animals is from burping." These farmers seem not to know one end of their animals from another, says Wallace.

Notes: *Methane is 21 times as potent a greenhouse gas as carbon dioxide (CO2).

If all emissions were to be subject to the proposed $25/tonne carbon dioxide equivalent levy, then there would be a total charge of $925 million payable in New Zealand during the first Kyoto commitment period (2008-2012). In 1990, agricultural methane emissions were 32 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent. It is estimated that during the first Kyoto commitment period there will be around an additional 5 million tonnes per year. This brings the total agricultural emissions to 37 million tonnes per year (CO2 equivalent) and at $25/tonne CO2 equivalent this is $925 million.

These calculations do not allow for the CO2 emissions from farm-related vehicles and equipment, from milk processing or other farm-related processing and export, for the release of CO2 from soils, or nitrogen oxides from fertilisers.