An earlier post on Point of Order about farming and climate change attracted some interesting comments. The post itself contended that in view of the world facing a global food shortage the government should be doing everything in its power to lift food production — and not imposing taxes on methane emissions (in other words taxing the burps on animals}.
In the wake of posting our thoughts, Point of Order was reminded that the Paris Convention on Climate Change in 2015 finished with an agreement where Article 2 read with these key lines:
1. This Agreement, in enhancing the implementation of the Convention,
including its objective, aims to strengthen the global response to the threat of
climate change, in the context of sustainable development and efforts to eradicate poverty, including by :
(b) Increasing the ability to adapt to the adverse impacts of climate
change and foster climate resilience and low greenhouse gas emissions
development, in a manner that does not threaten food production.
Point of Order underlines that last phrase and questions whether that element has been fully considered in the action which is now being canvassed in NZ.
He Waka Eke Noa has delivered its recommendations for pricing agricultural emissions, which in effect will add significantly to the costs of food production.The Government is expected to formally adopt these recommendations in December.
Because He Waka Eke Noa has 11 partners from the rural industries, it likely will be a formality for the government to proceed with those recommendations, although the Climate Change Commission will have its own input into what happens.
Keith Woodford, a former Lincoln College professor, in an article on the issue posted by interest.co.nz, noted the debate within HWEN “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”.
As Professor Woodford put it:
“The Government does not have to accept the HWEN recommendations. Nor does it have to accept the advice of the CCC. But if it does not accept CCC advice, it is required by legislation to give reasons.
“My bet is that there will be robust discussions within Government. There are some within Government, including senior members, who understand very clearly that they must not destroy agriculture. But there are also elements within the Government who are fundamentally antagonistic to New Zealand agriculture as currently structured”.
He says one of the key reasons for antagonism towards New Zealand’s agricultural sector is a serious misunderstanding about the importance of primary industries in general, and pastoral agriculture in particular.
“This lack of understanding is fed by the crazy way that we measure the importance of the agricultural sector in New Zealand. This starts with the measure of GDP, whereby agriculture supposedly makes up in the order of five percent of the economy.
This GDP measure is limited not only to what happens on-farm, ignoring everything before and past the farm gate, but it also includes only part of what happens on-farm…..The only way to understand the importance to New Zealand of the land-based primary industries is to look at exports. More than 80% of New Zealand’s merchandise exports come from the primary industries”.
Professor Woodford says the ‘bottom line arising from this situation is that New Zealand has responsibilities to itself, and also to others – through the Paris Agreement – to protect food production.
‘‘However, that does not let New Zealand ‘off the hook’ from having to minimise greenhouse gas emissions whenever it can do so consistent with its food obligations’’.
As Cabinet Ministers get to grips with the issue of methane emissions, Point of Order wonders whether they will grasp all the implications of what the outcomes of their decisions will be. And will they understand and recognise the meaning of the Paris Agreement’s Article 2.1(b)?
Point of Order is a blog focused on politics and the economy run by veteran newspaper reporters Bob Edlin and Ian Templeton