The heat is on for climate change – the transition to a lower carbon economy

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Global emissions are high and as an island country heavily reliant on primary production and tourism for much of its economic wealth, New Zealand is vulnerable to the economic and environmental impacts of climate change. Agriculture is responsible for nearly 50 per cent of New Zealand’s carbon footprint, and while the wheel of change is in motion, the national position on emission reduction has stagnated in recent years.

The agricultural sector has been reluctant to heed the New Zealand Government’s call to reduce the national carbon footprint, with the common voice – “New Zealand is a drop in the ocean (contributing less than 0.3 per cent) of a much greater global problem” – challenging the emission reduction targets pledged in the Paris Agreement 2015, an international treaty on climate change.

Despite this sentiment, climate change is increasingly evident with increased rainfall resulting in flooding, higher temperatures leading to lengthy periods of drought, and storm surges creating havoc on coastline infrastructure. A comprehensive risk management approach is required if primary industry is to survive the evolution of mother nature. No longer can rural operators turn a blind eye as the impacts of climate change directly affect financial bottom-lines and challenge business viability. Rural corporates are championing sustainability objectives and national and international investment favours producers and operators who play their part in the global climate change response.

Key risks to rural industry include what and how much we can grow or harvest, fluctuation in production levels due to unpredictable weather, increased pressure on ecosystems, a greater threat of pest species, and higher rainfall contributes greater erosion and sediment in our waterways compounding the National Policy direction to improve our freshwater resources. Sustainable land management is the key to combatting these risks.

We have seen first-hand the innovative solutions our agribusiness clients are pioneering in their response to climate change. This shift in mindset creates exciting opportunities and builds resilience for an industry constantly battling to stay on top of environmental regulation. Farmers are embracing environmental initiatives that serve a dual purpose – improved fertiliser and irrigation management that delivers on sustainability outcomes while also contributing cost savings by reducing energy outputs on-the-ground. Native planting has increased significantly in the last few years as native species can earn carbon credits provided minimum canopy thresholds are met. Regenerative and organic farming is seeing a resurgence – low impact methods to boost soil fertility, and holistic all-of-farm management systems.

The Government’s recent increased commitment at the COP26 summit has many worried in the rural sector despite assurances that there will be no new methane policies or targets because of the new initiative. Unlike Australia, New Zealand has pledged (with other countries globally) to reduce biogenic methane by 10 per cent on 2017 levels by 2030 and between 24 to 47 per cent by 2050. In addition, New Zealand has committed to cut our net greenhouse emissions by 50 percent by 2030. An Emissions Reduction Plan to be released in 2022 is expected to contain detail on how this aim is to be achieved. Notably two thirds of the net greenhouse emissions reduction is expected to come from offshore arrangements.

For further information, please contact Katherine Forward or a member of our resource management team. 

Disclaimer: The content of this article is general in nature and not intended as a substitute for specific professional advice on any matter and should not be relied upon for that purpose.

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