Farming’s emission efficient mission

17 December 2020

Tim Mackle, DairyNZ chief executive

Tim Mackle, DairyNZ chief executive

It’s been a year since the Zero Carbon Bill passed into law, and with the recent climate emergency announced, sectors are facing significant change as they look hard at how they’ll reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Agriculture is very much part of the solution and as we respond to Covid-19, a new government and tackling New Zealand’s future, the daily business of farming is shifting rapidly too.

Dairy farming accounts for 23 percent of New Zealand’s greenhouse gases and, as we address climate change as a nation, we are tasked with producing our world-class milk while reducing footprint.

Internationally, we stack up well already. Kiwis are some of the most sustainable dairy producers in the world – the emissions created from every glass of New Zealand milk are less than half the global average. But we know we can be even better.

Right now, we are working on our primary sector climate change partnership, He Waka Eke Noa, which is an industry, government and iwi/Maori commitment to help farmers reduce emissions and build the framework to report and price agriculture emissions by 2025.

He Waka Eke Noa is developing a framework to empower farmers and growers to measure, manage and reduce on-farm emissions, by 2025.

The Climate Change Commission assesses the primary sector’s progress against He Waka Eke Noa milestones, which anchors our commitment to reduce emissions from farms.

Significant research by our sector is being undertaken to support how farmers can reduce emissions on the farm.

Already over 3500 dairy farmers have Farm Environment Plans now, helping identify farm environmental risks and solutions to help water quality and reduce greenhouse gases. Every farmer will have a plan by 2025.

Like many sectors, shifting day-to-day practices is a journey. We’re not there yet, but we believe smart farming will see a healthy environment and a healthy economy coexist.

Incremental change means dairy farmers are better placed to invest in environmental systems and maintain viable businesses, which spend locally and provide employment.

The science tells us 12,000 dairy farms collectively reducing their footprint will have an impact.

Adapting feed and crop use, fertiliser and effluent practices, fencing and planting waterways, and so on, will reduce farm footprint individually and as part of catchment groups all over New Zealand.

The Zero Carbon Bill was the start of a new era for all New Zealanders. For farmers, it means understanding the emissions produced from their farm and tailoring solutions to reduce that footprint.

Over 90 percent of dairy farmers will receive a farm emission report this year. Understanding the source of those emissions and how a farm compares to others is the first step in reducing a farm’s footprint.

Our dairy farmers are making great strides in reducing their environmental impact, and it’s important to champion them as they commit to even more in the next five years and beyond.

By Dr Tim Mackle, DairyNZ chief executive

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