Farmers introduced He Waka Eke Noa (HWEN) to parliament last month after years of working in partnership with government and other stakeholders.
This would see farmers pay different rates for methane and carbon dioxide emissions into the government’s Emergency Response Fund, to be spent on initiatives set out in emissions reduction plans.
The plan would see farmers pay individually per farm, in a system that falls outside the emissions trading system that had been criticized for its simplistic approach to agricultural emissions.
The Climate Change Commission today published a response to the plan for ministers to consider, saying such a program must be implemented without delay.
“A pricing system for agriculture must be in place by 2025. We cannot afford to wait – any delay will only prevent us from getting to where we need to be in 2030 and 2050,” said writes Commission President Rod Carr in the report.
“Now is the time to act – we cannot afford to wait for the perfect policy.”
The report says a lot of hard work has gone into the plan, and while it would take considerable effort, a “simplified version” of the plan could and should be ready to launch by January 1, 2025.
However, the Commission also recommended some changes to make it work.
Dr Carr said farmers should not be paid for carbon uptake by on-farm vegetation, which was already largely covered by the emissions trading scheme (ETS).
“The proposed approach would likely be costly, complex, inequitable and difficult to audit and enforce – without significantly improving emission reduction outcomes. Farmers already have access to the NZ ETS for some on-farm sequestration.
“A separate system for carbon taken up by vegetation which is not recognized in the NZ ETS could better reward the wide range of other benefits provided by on-farm vegetation – such as improved water quality. water and biodiversity, and ensuring equity between farmers and other sectors.”
He also urged the government to include synthetic nitrogen fertilizers in the ETS as soon as possible, rather than farm-level pricing as suggested by HWEN, saying this would achieve wider and more comprehensive coverage. equity of all nitrogen fertilizer emissions.
“If the science of measuring on-farm fertilizer emissions improves over time, these emissions could later be included in a more detailed farm-level pricing system.”
He Waka Eke Noa Partnership group program manager Kelly Forster said he was pleased that the commission had accepted the comprehensive approach to shared farm-level gas pricing and acknowledged that more work would be required.
“The Commission took a different view from He Waka Eke Noa on recognizing sequestration and levying nitrogen fertilizers. We will have to study their analysis before responding in detail,” Forster said.
“However, it is important to remember that He Waka Eke Noa’s recommendations are based on giving farmers control over all the levers that impact their emissions, including sequestration and the use of fertilizer, so they can have a whole farming system view as they make decisions. We wouldn’t want that whole farming system approach to be undermined.
In a statement, Climate Change Minister James Shaw and Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor welcomed the Commission’s report.
“The Commission’s independent, evidence-based advice will form an important part of the government’s considerations on options for an effective farm pricing system,” Shaw said.
O’Connor said the government would consider the Commission’s advice alongside recommendations from the He Waka Eke Noa partnership and further analysis and advice from officials, before developing proposals on what the system would look like.
Ministers will have until the end of this year to issue decisions on a pricing mechanism for agriculture.