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New Zealand Plans to Tax Farmers For Livestock Burps

New Zealand is set to introduce an emissions tax on livestock. A draft law was drawn up this week which the government says is to target methane emissions caused by livestock burping.

The move was prompted by a report on the agricultural sector compiled in conjunction with beef, lamb, and deer farmers by He Waka Eke Noa Primary Sector Climate Action Partners.

According to Teagasc, methane is the second most common greenhouse gas after carbon dioxide, and occurs abundantly in nature.

“A 500kg beef animal on a high concentrate diet produces 230 g methane per day and a 550kg dairy cow grazing on pasture emits about 320-330 grams of methane per day.”

New Zealand aims to reduce its methane emissions 10% from 2017 levels by 2030, and  24 – 47% by 2050. It also aims to cut net emissions of carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide to zero by 2050.

 He Waka Eke Noa Primary Sector Climate Action Partners says it is “committed to designing an alternative to pricing agricultural emissions through the NZ ETS (New Zealand Emissions Trading Scheme) that will ensure New Zealand’s agricultural products remain internationally competitive while reducing national and global emissions.”

The report found that farmers “strongly valued control and autonomy over their farm businesses” and that they “emphasized the need for the option to give them control over their farm emissions obligation through recognising and incentivising their individual on-farm actions”.

While the majority of farmers consulted responded favorably to proposed action to reduce emissions they expressed concern over the “social impacts of He Waka Eke Noa proposal on rural communities, generational farming, and farmers’ mental wellbeing.”

Some argued that the proposals were not backed up by science saying there was “too much pressure on reducing emissions upon sheep, beef-cattle, and deer farming businesses, despite these rural land uses already having low and long-term steady-state stabilized emissions profiles”

Trade offs important to farmers listed in the report are; recognition of early adopters, a scientifically robust and transparent process that aligns with mātauranga Māori, that any revenue raised is recycled back to the agricultural sector, a clear and simple system with low administrative costs, and that on-farm actions that reduce emissions be recognized.

The report says that “Farmers were generally supportive of the proposal for recognising carbon sequestration on-farm. Specifically, the ability to recognise on-farm vegetation not recognised by the NZ ETS, and to be recognised for individual actions.

However it says they “disliked where their efforts on-farm were not currently recognised.”, and that “concerns were expressed about the running cost of individualized reporting on 23,000 farmers.”  They were also worried about administrative costs to farmers increasing due to the regulatory burden, citing the amount of office time and paperwork required.

One farmer is quoted in the report as saying: “I am concerned about the cost of working out the metric at farm level; it could be more expensive than the emissions costs.” while another commented that they were “very concerned how effective(ly) the government is going to spend the money. “ Saying, “It could create another huge bureaucracy.”

Last month in the UK a ‘face-mask’ for cows designed by students from the Royal College of Art in the UK won over 59,000 euro at the inaugural Terra Carter Design Lab competition

Euro News reported that the device which captures the methane burped out by the cows and neutralizes the emissions “fits around the cow’s head in a way that doesn’t impact its ability to feed” or interact with other animals.

Prince Charles reportedly praised the methane neutralizing invention saying, “we will have a better chance of winning this battle in a shorter time”.

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