Friday, 05 April 2019 10:24

The science is settled — Editorial

Written by 
Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment Simon Upton. Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment Simon Upton.

The latest report from the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment Simon Upton makes interesting reading for the agricultural sector and its constant critics.

Upton’s report marks a departure from widespread calls to drag agriculture into an expanded ‘all gases, all sectors’ version of the current Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS). 

Instead, he has proposed separate trading systems for fossil and biological emissions to help tackle climate change. This so-called ‘landscape approach’ would deal with agricultural greenhouse gases and forest sinks together – and separately from CO2.

The agricultural sector has been calling for just such a change in policy makers’ views on methane and other carbon emissions. This has been backed, in the past 18 months or so, by numerous scientists supporting the setting of a separate methane target in the Zero Carbon Bill, to reduce and stabilise methane, while carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide reduce to net zero. 

This is aligned with work by the Productivity Commission, research by Dr Andy Reisinger of the New Zealand Greenhouse Gas Research Centre, and most recently by Professor Myles Allan, of Oxford University, a member of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). 

Farming organisations are calling on the Government to take note of these new findings – which align with the latest and emerging science.

“This work adds to the growing evidence base developed over the past few years about how methane — a biological emission from animals — differs from carbon dioxide in its impact on global warming,” adds DairyNZ chief executive Tim Mackle. 

Critics claim this alternative approach would be ‘letting farmers off the hook’. Although these same critics have always argued about the ‘science of climate change’, they seem to conveniently forget this when the science does not back their narrative.

As BLNZ says, the PCE report shows a clear way forward for NZ on climate change and recommends a science-based approach, which fits with the principle of each sector being responsible for its own emissions -- and for tackling them. 

Ministers, policy makers and farming critics must take note: it is difficult to argue against the science.

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