Boost jobs and cut emissions?

Wednesday 12 Dec 2018

Report: Planting push could cut emissions and boost jobs - A new report looks at the impact on jobs if New Zealand boosted its forestry and horticulture industries to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It finds there could be more jobs, but also social dislocation, reports Eloise Gibson (for Newsroom).

New Zealand could one day have more jobs in agriculture for about half the greenhouse emissions, according to new modelling from Motu. But the change wouldn’t come without social upheaval.

The work is part of a joint project by farming industry groups and government departments to work out how to reduce farming’s emissions of methane and nitrous oxide with the least pain.

On releasing a major report last Thursday, farming groups and government ministries agreed that significant changes to how we use land are “reasonable” to expect in the next 30 years (and noted that we’ve survived similar transformations in the past).

While previous decades saw New Zealand’s landscape shift from sheep and beef to dairying, researchers are now looking at what would happen if we grew a lot more forests and farmed more plants, such as vines and orchards.

The latest contribution to the conversation comes from the Biological Emissions Reference Group (BERG), a group including Fonterra, Federated Farmers, Beef & Lamb NZ and the ministries for primary industries and the environment.

BERG has commissioned nine reports from third-party experts and the first tranche, released today, confirms that merely improving farming methods won’t achieve New Zealand’s Paris goals. More reports are expected early next year.

At most, farming’s greenhouse gases could fall by 10 percent if all farmers adopted existing good practices, such as once-a-day milking, fewer-but-more-efficient cows, and planting marginal land, research for BERG concluded. Even achieving that modest drop would be difficult and expensive for some farmers, the report says – although other research for the group found that farmers would adopt progressively more of the helpful management tactics with an increasing emissions price.

Existing regional council policies aimed at cutting water pollution would also, as a spin-off benefit, cut greenhouse gas emissions by about 4 percent, the report noted.

While every little reduction helps, achieving the bigger gains needed to meet New Zealand’s Paris commitments will require changing the mix of what we farm – ideally helped by technological breakthroughs, BERG found.

It will also require better information for farmers.

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