Voluntary sequestration schemes create opportunities as well as confusion

Native forests that began regenerating prior to 1990 are excluded from the ETS. This opens opportunities for voluntary schemes independent of Government.

In a recent article, I wrote how carbon credits are not created equal. This inequality is now leading to game-playing and confusion across society. Terms like ‘greenwash’ as the carbon equivalent of a ‘whitewash’ are increasingly heard and there is increasing talk of ‘hot air’ carbon claims.

Since writing that article, I have been wrestling with the challenge of further deepening my own understanding of how the carbon game is being played. It is a game where different players are playing by different sets of rules, as are the certifying referees.  Many of the certifying rules are far from transparent.

Here in this article my focus is specifically on the rules surrounding sequestration that removes carbon from the atmosphere. That leaves other aspects of the carbon rules for another time.

In New Zealand, the dominant sequestration rules to date have been those of the Emission Trading Scheme (ETS). However, that could now be changing with the emergence of voluntary certification schemes with potential for local and international certification outside of any official system. Continue reading

Posted in carbon farming, forestry, Uncategorized | 6 Comments

Carbon credits are not created equal

Carbon offsets are fundamental to New Zealand’s greenhouse-gas policies. However, not all offsets are created equal. That sets the scene for all sorts of games to be played, with winners and losers. This is further complicated by marketing ploys that can lack transparency as to what is actually being bought and sold, and where the credits have come from. Continue reading

Posted in carbon farming, forestry, greenhouse gases, Uncategorized | 9 Comments

Dairy is fundamental to New Zealand’s future but it needs an informed debate

The key message of this article is that dairy is of fundamental importance to the future of Aotearoa New Zealand.  However, the journey to get there is not straight forward and it will be controversial.

First, I set out the reasons why dairy is so important, and hence the need to face-up to the challenges that lie ahead. This then leads towards necessary actions to address the challenges. Continue reading

Posted in Dairy, greenhouse gases, Uncategorized | 6 Comments

Carbon farming rocket has taken off

Nothing matches carbon-farming economics on sheep and beef land

This last week I spent two days in Rotorua at the New Zealand carbon-forestry conference where I was also one of the speakers. Both I and others presented perspectives on the path ahead for this new industry. There were close to 300 attendees plus an international online audience.

Although there was diversity of perspective as to how the industry might develop, I sensed no doubt that we all saw ourselves as being involved in something big that, one way or another, is transformational for New Zealand

Most of the attendees were either forestry people already in the business, or alternatively service-industry people who either are already or in future want to be part of this new industry. There were also some Government and Climate Change Commission people there to help explain the current regulatory framework. 

However, there were not many farmers at the conference, apart from those who were already in the business of carbon farming, and doing rather well, I might add. Continue reading

Posted in carbon farming, sheep and beef farms, Uncategorized | 20 Comments

Mega changes announced to forestry and carbon policies

There were two big announcements by Government entities in the last week of July affecting forestry rules and carbon pricing. To a large extent, the announcements escaped media scrutiny.  

That lack of scrutiny was because explanations require an understanding of complex issues on which the general media is not knowledgeable. But let me be clear:  the announcements were of huge importance. They encompass mega movements of both climate change and forestry policies with long-term implications. Continue reading

Posted in carbon farming, forestry, greenhouse gases, Uncategorized | 15 Comments

Climate Change Commission pours reality on HWEN proposals

Industry groups now need to decide how to manage the HWEN stand-off with the risk of being left outside the tent

Big decisions are now required, both by rural industry groups and Government, following the Climate Change Commission advice on the He Waka Eke Noa proposals (HWEN). The Climate Change Commission, chaired by Rod Carr, has supported some aspects of the HWEN proposals put forward by industry, but has poured cold reality on other aspects.

Beef+ Lamb and DairyNZ have responded by suggesting that it is all or nothing.  However, that is not going to wash with Government. Once again, the rural industry groups have challenging decisions to make as to whether they are inside the tent or outside the tent. Continue reading

Posted in carbon farming, Dairy, forestry, greenhouse gases, Uncategorized | 15 Comments

Wrestling with methane metrics

The methane debate is more about politics, policy and value judgements than it is about science

In my previous article, I explained how there is much controversy about how methane should be compared to carbon dioxide in terms of global warming. The problem arises because methane is a powerful greenhouse gas but it lasts only a short time in the atmosphere. In contrast, carbon dioxide is a weak greenhouse gas but it lasts much longer. Also, there is a lot more carbon dioxide than methane released into the atmosphere.

Big problems arise when methane is shoe-horned into carbon dioxide equivalence. Here I will explain some of the problems.

First, many people will be surprised that this issue of carbon-dioxide equivalence and the associated controversy is not really about the science. Scientists understand the nonsense of trying to estimate how many apples it takes to equate to one orange, with the answer depending totally on the chosen measures. Similarly, scientists understand that methane has a totally different emission profile than carbon dioxide and there is no simple equivalence measure. Continue reading

Posted in Dairy, greenhouse gases, sheep and beef farms, Uncategorized | 7 Comments

The methane issue is far from settled

Big methane decisions lie ahead that will affect all New Zealanders

In late May, the eleven rural-industry partners in He Waka Eke Noa (HWEN) reached internal compromises that were sufficient for all to sign-up to a joint greenhouse gas (GHG) document, which laid out the bones of how they think agriculture’s greenhouse gases should be priced.

It went right down to the wire before Federated Farmers agreed to add their logo.  Some of the other partners to the document were also less than happy, but the alternative of failing to come up with an agreement at all was even less palatable.

Now it will be up to the Government, taking account of forthcoming advice from the Climate Change Commission (CCC), to make some calls as to the path forward. Continue reading

Posted in Dairy, greenhouse gases, Meat Industry, sheep and beef farms, Uncategorized | 12 Comments

Can agriculture meet its methane targets?

New Zealand agrculture is required to achieve a ten percent reduction in its methane emissions by 2030.  This is set down in legislation. The subsequent 2050 target, also laid out in legislation, has been set in the range of 24-47 percent, with the specific requirement within this range still to be determined. The question addressed here is whether these targets are realistic and what do they mean for the future of pastoral agriculture?

The reason this is such an important question is that pastoral exports from dairy, sheep, beef and venison comprise some 50 percent of New Zealand’s merchandise exports. Add in horticulture, fish and forestry, and the overall primary industries contribution to exports rises to over 80 percent. These export percentages have been increasing each year for the last ten years. Continue reading

Posted in Agribusiness, Dairy, sheep and beef farms, Uncategorized | 21 Comments

The future for sheep

Lamb prices are high but industry remains buffeted by big crosswinds

The sheep industry in Zealand has been getting smaller ever since 1982 when sheep numbers reached 70 million. The latest numbers are 26 million in 2021, having dropped from 32.6 million in 2010. Yet sheep still earn over $4 billion of annual export income.

In recent months I have had plenty to say about both greenhouse gas policy and forestry as they are affecting and will affect all New Zealand agriculture. Here, I focus specifically on sheep farming to seek answers as to where the industry might head. Continue reading

Posted in sheep and beef farms, Uncategorized | 13 Comments