Cross-party report says NZ must reduce animal numbers to hit emissions goal

New Zealand's access to renewable energy makes a big difference in the net-zero emission strategy.
JULIE ILES/FAIRFAX NZ

New Zealand's access to renewable energy makes a big difference in the net-zero emission strategy.

A report commissioned by 35 New Zealand MPs has suggested reducing pastoral stock by 35 per cent as a way to get the country to a target of net zero carbon emissions.

The report by UK-based Vivid Economics and commissioned by the Globe-NZ laid out three pathways to address the Paris Agreement commitment to net-zero emissions by 2050.

In the first scenario there was not a significant change in land-use patterns, but a big emphasis on renewable energy, electric vehicles, and the roll out of low-emmission technology on farms. It accelerated new feeding regimes, nitrogen and methane inhibiting vaccines, and reduction of fertiliser use.

The Vivid Economics report said one approach to net-zero emissions was fewer cows.
BRITTANY PICKETT/FAIRFAX NZ

The Vivid Economics report said one approach to net-zero emissions was fewer cows.

The report found this approach was not ambitious enough for the net-zero goal and left the country at a net emission reduction at 10-25 per cent by 2050. 

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The second scenario got to at least 70 per cent reduction by 2050 but hinged on technological break-throughs in agriculture to support a million hectares of forestation by 2050, and a more robust horticulture industry. These new land-uses would see a reduction in pasture space and a decline of animal numbers by up to 35 per cent.

Abbie Reynolds, the executive director of the Sustainable Business Council, said businesses needed to start looking at ...
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Abbie Reynolds, the executive director of the Sustainable Business Council, said businesses needed to start looking at investing in sectors that were acting on climate change.

The third scenario gets the country on-track to reduce emissions up to 75 per cent by 2050.

It assumed similar changes to the energy sector to the first: growth in renewable generation by 75 per cent, an 85 per cent electrified vehicle fleet, as well as significant low-temperature heat provided by electricity. It emphasised forestation even more than the second scenario by expanding to 1.6 million hectares.

The report authors acknowledged this would make for a difficult transition for rural economies, and represent a lost opportunity to reintroduce native habitat.

Sustainable Business Council executive director Abbie Reynolds said the report was an early signal to businesses that forestry was an area where they needed to put investments.

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"Businesses can start to engage with the idea that there are going to be real opportunities in the transition we need to make."

Reynolds said penalising businesses for practices that hindered climate change were not usually helpful, and what businesses needed were greater signals of what climate change policy would look like.

"What's important about having the conversation about pathways is it allows us to have a much more sophisticated conversation about what are the cost and the benefits," said Reynolds.

The report concludes that although planting more forests would get the country to the 2050 goal, a new strategy would be needed for the next 50 years of emission lowering. 

Greenpeace's Gen Toop said the Government could help abate river pollution and lower greenhouse gas emission "in one fell swoop" by reducing dairy herds. 

"Industrial dairying and the environment are on a head on collision course."

"Choices have to be made, we can have more cows or a clean environment, not both," Toop said.

Toop said scrapping the $480 million irrigation fund would be a first step to halt the expansion of the dairy industry. 

 

 

 

 - Stuff

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