On the road . . . Beef & Lamb New Zealand chairman Andrew Morrison and Southern South Island extension manager Hannah Blakely have been taking part in a woolshed tour of the south talking to farmers about He Waka Eke Noa, the Government’s plan to reduce emissions in the agricultural and horticultural sectors. PHOTO: SANDY EGGLESTON

Beef & Lamb New Zealand chairman Andrew Morrison and southern extension manager Hannah Blakely have been travelling the South speaking to farmers about the Government’ s plan to reduce emissions in the agriculture sector.

About 30 farmers gathered in the Selbie family woolshed at Five Rivers last week to hear Mr Morrison speak about the government’s response to He Waka Eke Noa.

Mr Morrison started his talk by reminding the audience it was the Government that started the conversation about emissions in 2003 when the idea of the ‘‘fart tax’’ was suggested.

‘‘This debate has been sitting around for 20 years and this debate is not going to go away because this is a global debate.’’

As much as people thought it was a Labour Government initiative, it was a previous National government that signed the Paris Agreement in 2015 with the aim of reducing the country’s emissions by 30% by 2030.

‘‘If we do not deliver on this we are internationally liable and will have to write cheques out.’’

The business sector was already working towards meeting New Zealand’s Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) requirements.

Farmers and producers had been paying for carbon emissions but now needed also to pay for methane and nitrous oxide, he said.

Whether people accepted it or not, there was enough evidence the climate was being impacted by emissions, he said.

‘‘I can tell you that 48% of our emissions in New Zealand are from agriculture.

‘‘I can you that 48% of the warming is not from agriculture.

‘‘I can tell you that 80% of our emissions from most of our farms is from methane.’’

Mr Morrison then explained how Beef & Lamb NZ and 10 other agriculture and horticultural groups had developed He Waka Eke Noa, an alternative emissionsreducing plan for the sectors.

‘‘We have to put forth a creditable proposal or we risk the Government coming out with a scheme that won’t deliver on its target and will financially compromise the sectors.’’

The group had some success so far in that one of its recommendations made in 2019, that methane should not be treated the same as carbon and nitrous oxide, had been accepted by the Government.

Methane had a relatively short life and did not last long in the atmosphere compared with carbon and nitrous oxide, he said.

‘‘Because [methane] has a short but sharp warming effect that does not last very long we don’t have to reduce it to zero.

‘‘We have to reduce it at this stage to 10% by 2030, which is 1% a year.’’

He was confident, given time, solutions would be found.

‘‘Methane inhibitors, vaccines, feeds, genetics and farm systems efficiencies will offer solutions.’’

However, the sequestering of carbon was only partially accepted by the Government in its response to He Waka Eke Noa, he said.

Many farms had shelter belts, blocks of trees or areas of native bush that were sequestering carbon and reducing emissions.

It was ‘‘not morally right’’ for farmers to pay for emissions without sequestration being taken into account, he said.

Reducing stock numbers as referenced by the Climate Change Commission would not reduce emissions, he said.

Historically, stock numbers had decreased but there had not been a corresponding decrease in emissions.

This was because the fewer stock numbers were still eating the same amount of dry matter which produced the emissions, he said.

‘‘Every kilogram of dry matter you eat, as a ruminant, you produce 22g of methane.’’

Even though sheep numbers were half what they were once, there had only been an 8% reduction in the number of kilograms of meat produced, because farming methods had improved so animals were more efficient at gaining weight.

Submissions close on the Government’s response to He Waka Eke Noa o Friday and Mr Morrison encouraged farmers to submit feedback.

He also encouraged farmers to calculate their greenhouse gas numbers, which was how much methane and nitrous oxide their farm produced, by the end of 2022.

Some groups were telling people not to work out the number but this was not wise, he said.

Not doing so would give the Government a ‘‘legitimate excuse’’ to insist the sectors becomes part of the ETS, he said.