GHG reduction targets - All New Zealanders must make changes

GHG reduction targets - All New Zealanders must make changes

Friday, February 12, 2021

Deer Industry NZ (DINZ) chief executive Innes Moffat says the deer farming industry welcomes many aspects of the Climate Change Commission’s interim report. But it will be a challenge for deer farmers with extensive farming systems to achieve its emission reduction targets without some novel intervention.

It’s unclear how deer farmers will meet their greenhouse emissions targets

“We welcome its recognition that all New Zealanders, not just farmers, have to make major changes. That methane emissions from livestock are not the big bogey that many commentators have portrayed them to be. That the real challenge lies in reducing emissions of long-lived gases, especially carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide,” he says.

“Also the report’s recognition that our livestock farms are the most efficient in the world. Replacing them with carbon forests, on all except our least productive land, makes very little long-term sense – environmentally or economically.”

The headline message for livestock farmers is that if the Commission’s recommendations are adopted they will need to reduce their net methane emissions from 2018 levels by 13 percent by 2030, a further 7 percent by 2035 and another 4 percent by 2050.

“We need to make our animals and farming systems more efficient – producing more venison and velvet from reduced feed intake, potentially on a smaller grazing area. Riparian and less productive grazing areas need to be planted in native trees and woodlots – with farmers being able to use these plantings and retired areas to offset their livestock emissions,” Moffat says.

“The challenge for livestock farmers is to maintain profitability while reducing total feed intake.  These targets will be challenging for extensive livestock systems to achieve without some novel intervention. DINZ continues to support the work of the Pastoral Greenhouse Gas Research Consortium which is investing in finding methane inhibitors that will work for New Zealand’s pastoral farming systems.”

He says some aspects of the report require further information or explanation. Work is also needed on how to treat farmers who are already doing the right thing by the climate, so they are not unfairly penalised.

“It is unclear where the large-scale afforestation (native or exotic) proposed in the report will be located and whether it will be at the expense of deer/drystock farming. Many deer farms already contain a good mix of productive pasture and retired native or exotic forestry,” he says.  

“A reduction in livestock numbers by 15 per cent highlighted in the report seems to be an extrapolation of historic trends and historic increases in animal productivity. While the focus should be on reducing net emissions, it is unclear when those production trends will reach a biological limit.  The report does not specify if the expected farm efficiency gains are spread evenly throughout the industries and regions.”

Over the next few weeks DINZ will be analysing the contents of the report in detail and preparing its submission alongside other primary industry organisations. Deer farmers are invited to contact, or 04 471 6115 with any concerns they have about the report or areas that they support or oppose.

“I encourage interested farmers and industry representatives to visit the commission’s website to get more information and to consider making a submission,” Moffat says.

Public submissions on the commission’s draft report close on 14 March 2021.

Photo: Richard Hilson