Bernard Lagan writes on The Times website about the plans New Zealand has to to have farmers “pay for burps and other gaseous releases from their animals from 2025.
Pardon ewe! Farmers will pay for methane emitted by cows and sheep
New Zealand plans to become the first nation to make farmers pay for the greenhouse gases emitted by their sheep and cattle.
Under the, proposals farmers would have to pay for burps and other gaseous releases from their animals from 2025.
“There is no question that we need to cut the amount of methane we are putting into the atmosphere, and an effective emissions pricing system for agriculture will play a key part in how we achieve that,” James Shaw, the climate change minister, said.
The present policy, which exempts agricultural methane from the nation’s emissions trading scheme, has drawn criticism of its efforts to combat global warming.
Farm animals outnumber people in New Zealand, and its ten million cattle and 26 million sheep are estimated to create nearly half of its greenhouse gas emissions.
The new plan includes incentives for farmers who reduce emissions through feed additives, and on-farm forestry can be used to offset emissions. Revenue from the scheme will be invested in research and development, and advisory services for farmers.
Cattle and sheep are ruminant animals. Instead of one compartment in the stomach, they have four. One of these compartments, the rumen, allows them to store partially digested food and let it ferment, producing methane. The greenhouse gas is then expelled, mainly through burping.
The average dairy cow emits more than 200lb of methane a year and a sheep emits 28lb.
Susan Kilsby, agricultural economist at ANZ Bank, said the proposal could be the biggest regulatory disruption to farmers in New Zealand since the removal of agricultural subsidies in the 1980s.
Andrew Hoggard, the national president of Federated Farmers of New Zealand, told the BBC that he largely approved of the proposals. “We’ve been working with the government and other organisations on this for years to get an approach that won’t shut down farming in New Zealand, so we’ve signed off on a lot of stuff we’re happy with,” he said.
Methane is known as a short-lived gas because it remains in the atmosphere for only about 12 years before breaking down. In contrast, carbon dioxide is a long-lived gas that can remain in the atmosphere for centuries.
However, methane is about 30 times more effective than carbon dioxide at trapping heat in the atmosphere. Releasing one tonne of methane into the atmosphere creates the same amount of warming as 30 tonnes of carbon over 100 years.
A final decision on the plan is expected in December.