Fonterra plan gets cautious tick

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It is great to hear Fonterra publicly declare it will improve energy-use efficiency and lower emissions, Coal Action Network Aotearoa (Cana) Murihiku member Zella Horrell says.

But the group believes the dairy giant could be doing more.

Fonterra has joined forces with the Ministry for the Environment to develop a plan for a low-emissions future.

The plan identified actions to reduce emissions, improve energy efficiency and reduce costs.

Cana had campaigned to have Fonterra stop using coal to fuel its burners for several years, Mrs Horrell, of Northern Southland, said.

Protests were held at Fonterra plants, including the Edendale site.

Mrs Horrell said Fonterra was the second-largest user of coal in New Zealand and a move away from coal by the co-operative would send a clear signal to other users.

However, Fonterra could do more and the co-operative’s plan to install no new coal boilers after 2030 lacked “verve”, she said.

“That means no change for over a decade.”

People were feeling the effects of climate change now, Mrs Horrell said.

The plan mentioned the use of co-firing for plants, but co-fired boilers were inefficient, she said.

“Boilers designed specifically for the burning of wood waste or other biomass can produce efficient, clean, reliable energy,” she said.

“That technology is available and has been for years, but it is more expensive.”

“Co-firing also brings into question what ratio of wood to coal will be used – one tonne of wood to 10 tonnes of coal?”

“Great to see that Fonterra is looking in the right direction, but so far, they are only looking– there’s no real sign of movement yet.”

Meanwhile Cana had awarded Fonterra half a tick for at least acknowledging the importance of reducing its huge coal use but described its programme as hardly ambitious.

Cana national spokeswoman Jeanette Fitzsimons said the organisation had been calling on Fonterra for several years to stop the use of coal.

“It’s about time they listened and took action,” Ms Fitzsimons said.

Fonterra’s coal use to dehydrate milk had been growing fast, she said.

“Today’s announcement of no new coal boilers after 2030 is disappointingly unambitious,” she said.

“The other way of saying this is that they intend to go on building new coal boilers for another 13 years, despite the urgency of action on climate change.”

Fonterra’s contribution to climate change needed more than a substitute fuel, she said.

It needed a system change, she said.

Reducing emissions meant fewer cows.

Federated Farmers supports Fonterra’s push to achieve zero emissions of COside of the co-operative.

Federated Farmers climate change spokesman Andrew Hoggard said the organisation was interested to see what contribution the company would be making to reduce biological emissions.

“Whilst we have some promising options under development to control them, there is a lot of work still to be done,” Mr Hoggard said.

“The science we are attempting, to reduce the methane produced in a ruminant’s stomach, isn’t simple stuff, and there is no guarantee that we will be able to achieve these options,” he said.

“Even if we do, we still face hurdles in being able to prove it at the farm level for carbon accounting.

“New Zealand dairy farmers are the most emissions-efficient in the world – what we offer to the world is the knowledge, experience and determination to improve.”

Bioenergy Association chief executive Brian Cox congratulated Fonterra on its commitment to reduce absolute emissions by 30% by 2030, and transition towards net zero emissions by 2050.

Mr Cox said Fonterra was already trialling co-firing wood biomass in existing coal boilers and the co-op’s commitment not to install any new coal boilers from 2030 sent a strong signal to the bioenergy industry.

“Fonterra is a large energy user and their intention to transition away from coal will provide positive stimulus for the wood-fuel supply sector to meet fuel demand,” Mr Cox said.