Monday, 11 November 2019

Methane emissions from farm animals a 'green herring' in New Zealand

Photograph: Cattle belch monitoring, Moorepark, Ireland 2010

A recent article in The Guardian reports that climate change denial is changing tack from outright denial to a clever 'deflection' campaign.  This focuses on making individuals feel guilty about their food and travel choices, and then descends into 'doomism', which leads to hopelessness and inaction.  In this way, society is misled into failing to deal with the main cause of climate change - fossil fuel use.

Global greenhouse gas (GHG) sources are usually quoted at around 70% from fossil fuel use (energy production), agriculture 24%, industry, buildings and waste disposal the remaining 6%.  

New Zealand's GHG profile is quite different from the global profile, with energy production 41%, agriculture 48% (sourced mainly from animals belching methane), industry and waste 11%.

Recently the issue of methane emissions from farm animals has been controversial in New Zealand. The Agriculture sector has pointed out that methane is a short-lived GHG (about 14 years), while others have countered that it has a high Global Warming Potential (GWP), 25 times stronger than carbon dioxide.  The New Zealand Government has agreed to the sector's proposal to leave agriculture out of the New Zealand Emissions Trading Scheme until 2025, giving the sector until 2022 to come up with methods for reducing farm emissions.  

One way to reduce farm emissions is to reduce the number of animals farmed.  Leaving aside land use stocking and water quality issues, it would seem extraordinary that a food producing nation would be asked to consider reducing its production levels in a world that needs more food, not less.  And this from a pasture-based farming system in New Zealand that has a much lower overall environmental footprint (GHG plus everything else) and animal welfare footprint than barn-based intensive stock feeding regimes overseas.

So are methane emissions from farm animals really a problem locally or globally, compared to fossil fuel emissions?  Take a quick look across the latest science and we find:
  • Globally methane is 16% of all GHG;
  • Methane disappears from the atmosphere in about 14 years;
  • Modelling of methane's global warming effects from 1900 show a small decline relative to carbon dioxide;
  • World methane emissions have increased about 25% from 2005-2018.  This is thought to be from frozen wetlands melting (as the northern hemisphere warms), natural gas production, and livestock, although the global cattle population has increased only 0.6% in that time;
  • Fossil-fuel sourced carbon dioxide is about 80% of all GHG;
  • Carbon dioxide takes 20-200+ years to transit out of the atmosphere;
  • Recent studies show fossil-fuel sourced carbon dioxide is now about 86-87% of global carbon dioxide emissions; 
  • World fossil-fuel sourced carbon dioxide increased 50% from 1990-2015, increases in India (7.2%), Russia (3.5%), China  (2.9%) and the USA (1.5%); and,  
  • Emissions from New Zealand Agriculture 1990-2017 rose 13.5%, due to a near doubling of the dairy herd and 650% increase in use of nitrogen fertiliser. New Zealand's cattle population is about 0.1% of the global cattle population. 

There are some significant changes to note:

(1) Fossil-fuel sourced carbon dioxide sources have increased to 87% of global carbon emissions in the last ten years, so that they almost completely dominate the global GHG cycle;
(2) Global methane emissions over time have had no impact compared to fossil-fuel sourced carbon dioxide (so far);
(3) Global methane emissions are recently up from permafrost melting and natural gas production;
(4) Globally, New Zealand's cattle populations and their emissions do not register at all on any statistic; and,
(5) Local increases in New Zealand's dairy herd and their emissions have impact in New Zealand alone.

And so what to conclude?

Methane emissions from pasture-based farm animals are a "green herring" in New Zealand, and most probably globally.  

The reduction and reversal of global warming depends almost entirely upon reducing fossil fuel use.  Switch away from fossil fuels and the job is mostly done.  Reducing animal farming in New Zealand will make absolutely no difference to world GHG levels, and would be a pointless exercise in climate guilt.  Another 'deflection' away from dealing with the real problem.

Because of the structure of the Paris Climate Agreement and New Zealand's unusual GHG profile, the nation could be held fiscally responsible for methane emissions that are just a very few cattle breaths in reality, with no global impact.  There could, however, be a very high impact on the nation's pocket if the situation isn't shrewdly managed.  

And one wonders...how many more green herrings are out there?






Tuesday, 27 August 2019

Billion Tree Blessing




I've been a bit bemused to read media coverage lately about some parties complaining that the Billion Tree Funding Programme (1BT) and the NZ Government's changes to the Emissions Trading Scheme (NZETS) are leading to an exodus from hill country farming.  Apparently, large numbers of farms are being sold to overseas interests so that forests can be planted on them.  As a result, it is alleged, more NZ land is going into overseas investors' hands, and the local rural community and rural schools are being emptied of jobs and children.

So, I've done a quick fact check and find:

  • 70% of NZ's commercial forests are already overseas owned - so sorry folks, the horse has already bolted; and,
  • Yes, a few farms have been sold to overseas interests for forestry development, but the trend is no more than usual (so far).  The sales have had to go through the Overseas Investment Office (OIO) approval process, so if there is concern about how many farms are sold to overseas buyers, the place to change the policy settings is at the OIO; and,
  • Growing trees on marginal hill country and other "badlands" for wood and carbon credits still provide better economic and environmental returns than any other option.
As far as I know, NZ is the only country with a Billion Tree Blessing where land owners are given (that's given, not lent) money by the Government to plant trees that can become part of an ETS, and earn carbon credits (NZU) for their owners.  Creating two revenue streams where before there may have been none, or not much, or a loss.

So what does the Billion Tree Blessing give to rural land owners and the rest of NZ?
  • A gift to plant trees on land that's not producing anything except rates and fencing bills;
  • Another gift in carbon credits that can be easily sold in the carbon market (with the surrender requirement gone), or kept as a valuable futures stock;
  • '1BT' and 'Join ETS' application preparation fees at least partly covered by the grant, with both being tax deductible; and,
  • More NZ-owned marginal country turned into forestry, increasing the percentage of commercial forests owned by New Zealanders, and starting to bring back into NZ ownership the revenue, jobs, erosion control, and climate change benefits of beautiful trees. 
The Billion Tree Blessing is a gift - why wouldn't you take it?

*Declaration of interest - yes, my family earns part of its' living from trees - we love 'em.

Thursday, 26 October 2017

Independent Climate Commission Gives New Zealand Opportunity to be Number One Again

The new Labour - NZ First - Green Party Coalition Government's proposal to call an Independent Commission on Climate Change provides the country with an unmissable opportunity to make New Zealand Number One again in innovation, with a 21st Century approach to climate change management and economic and social development.
 
You can't get away from the science. Climate change is happening, and it's happening faster than we first thought.  The Australians have a very scary climate model  - scary because it's so accurate.  Twelve years ago at an Australian Transport Conference, they showed their model with Arctic and Antarctica ice melt, and sea level rise predictions based on various warming scenarios.  Twiddle the scenario and you get certain predictions.  Based on the climate science back then, you weren't supposed to be able to sail through an ice-free Arctic or see very major parts of Antarctica break off until about 2040.
 
But these things are happening now - 25 years ahead of that prediction.  The interesting thing then was that if you twiddled the model inputs to match the global warming data we have now, then the Aussie's model pulled back 20 years to put Arctic and Antarctica ice melt, and accelerating sea level rise into the 2015-2025 time frame we are seeing now.  Not bad for a bunch of cricket players. 
 
The work that our own scientists are doing, especially in Antarctica, is invaluable in refining these predictions through the NZ Sea Level Rise Programme.  Hopefully the new political atmosphere will encourage all the parties involved to work together on a National Climate Change Response Strategy that gives the people of New Zealand sound, practical advice on how to plan for the changes that will happen over the next 50-100 year timeframe.  A stitch in time saves nine.
 
It will also provide us with the opportunity to fix our fundamentally flawed Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS).  Everybody needs to be "in", because this issue is quite literally everybody's problem for those of us who recognise that we live on Planet Earth, and we have to go by her rules.  If we are smart enough to design an "all in" ETS with the right policy levers, international linkages, massive tree planting programme (which doesn't have to be on prime agricultural land - there are plenty of "badlands" needing planting), and effective carbon trading rules, it will drive us into Carbon Negative territory.  Then we will have a Great Story to tell. 
 
And by the way, Carbon Zero isn't quite enough.  That concept is something of an academic "will-o-the-wisp".  You could argue forever over which scientific technique (aka magic wand) should be used to define "Carbon Zero".  There will always be an assumption, a flaw, an error limit, or an uncertainty that will cast serious doubt on the postulated "Carbon Zero" position. 
 
Don't pay our scientists to argue about that red herring in front of courts and tribunals.  The reality is that there's already so much greenhouse gas in the atmosphere we need to figure out ways to suck the damn stuff up.  That's where the electric cars and massive tree planting programme come in. Pay the scientists to figure out more ways to get rid of the stuff - or at least issue them all with a spade and a box of trees to plant.  Every week.
 
Then, we will have a Great Story to tell the world: Responsible Carbon Management, Carbon Negative Export Products, a World-Leading ETS, and a good and great heritage for our children and grand-children.  Carbon Negative New Zealand.
 





 

 
 

Friday, 21 October 2016

New Zealand Needs To Grab Every Carbon Credit It Can


The Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment’s recent report on agricultural greenhouse gas emissions highlights the need for agriculture to make meaningful progress in reducing its emissions.  In New Zealand this is particularly important because agriculture is responsible for 48% of our emissions. 

The Commissioner’s report follows disturbing analysis from the Ministry for the Environment, where a senior official this week advised that meeting New Zealand’s Paris Climate Agreement pledge could cost the country more than $70 billion, and see carbon prices rise to $300 a tonne if we are not part of international carbon markets.



New Zealand’s Emissions Trading Scheme is greatly weakened because it is not linked to international carbon markets, and because it covers only half of our emissions.  Hopefully the current Government review of the ETS will address these issues, especially since the Paris Agreement comes into force on 4 November, and the next UN meeting on international climate change action is set down for Marrakech in two weeks’ time.
The Commissioner recommends planting trees to offset emissions.  This is an easy and relatively cheap strategy to pursue, with multiple benefits for agriculture - including riparian and erosion protection, water quality improvement, stumpage, and issue of NZU carbon credits for qualifying blocks.  Managed well, tree planting creates more income for farmers.




New Zealand needs to encourage farmers and other land owners to plant more trees, and grab every carbon credit we can.  We need to pursue a vigorous national planting programme and aim to become the world’s first Carbon Negative Country.  This way we will reduce the risk of being in serious carbon debt in future, and create an ETS that is an asset, not a liability for the nation.

GreenXperts Limited and Green Tick Certification Limited are working to maximise the benefits of carbon trading for New Zealanders, by launching this week a $10 million Certified Carbon Credit Fund.  We have already had local interest, and inquiries from Europe and India.  We look forward to being part of the next phase in positive climate change action – helping New Zealanders to grab every carbon credit they can. 

Thursday, 20 October 2016

Environment Court Appeal Won For New Taurikura General Store, Whangarei Heads, New Zealand



Proprietors of the Taurikura General Store, Neil Engebretsen and Yu Min Song, are pleased to announce that following a successful Environment Court appeal, resource consent has been granted for a store and cafe at their new site at 2302 Whangarei Heads Road, Taurikura, Whangarei Heads.  

 

The new Taurikura Store and Cafe will be both a General Grocery Store and a licensed Cafe, with much improved access, parking, and store facilities in the front of the new building, and a comfortable cafe and outdoor deck in the rear.  

 

The new store will be located about 80 metres west (towards Whangarei) of the T-intersection with Taurikura Street and Whangarei Heads Road.  

Ten carparks, including one disabled carpark, and disabled access and toilet will be available at the new store.  All the store facilities you are used to, such as the Post Shop, general goods, frozen goods, fishing gear, bread, milk, daily papers, and Internet access will be available at the new site.  Extensive landscaping, planting, and acoustic protection for neighbours will be installed at the new site.  

 

Postal services are available, and site planting  is underway.  Neil and Yu Min have really appreciated the community's support for this cool new beach store development in Taurikura.  

Thanks also to the project team, architect Claire Furlong from ARTO ArchitectsRichardson Stevens Limited engineers, Dean Scanlen, traffic engineer from Engineering Outcomes Ltd, Peter Ibbotson, acoustic engineer from Marshall Day Acoustics, and Susan Harris planner and environmental scientist from GreenXperts Limited for all their work on this successful resource consent project.

Taurikura General Store and Licensed Cafe

2302 Whangarei Heads Road, Taurikura, Whangarei Heads, New Zealand

 

Telephone: +64 9 434 0145  

 

Store hours: 7am-9pm.

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

GreenXperts and Green Tick Launch $NZD10 million Certified Carbon Credit Fund

GreenXperts Limited, in association with sister company Green Tick Certification Limited, has launched a $NZD10 million Certified Carbon Credit Fund.

Expressions of Interest are  sought from New Zealand Unit (NZU) holders who have NZU that will qualify for certification as genuinely carbon negative NZU.


Engineering processes, projects or forest stands with a certifiable carbon negative profile are welcome to respond to the Expression of Interest. 



GreenXperts may assist NZU holders to achieve certification through sister company Green Tick Certification Limited.

The objective is to provide the New Zealand carbon market with the highest quality, lowest risk certified carbon credit portfolio. This benefits buyers, because they receive an impeccable credit, and benefits sellers, because they achieve a premium value for their credits.

​The partners aim is to see the top 10% of the New Zealand carbon market certified, and to offer these high quality, low risk credits to the domestic market, and in time to the international market, at premium rates.



Following the ratification of the Paris Climate Agreement, international carbon markets will reform, and our aim is to position our clients to take full advantage of the global carbon market in this next phase of international action on climate change.


Download 'Expressions of Interest NZU 2016' Flyer on our web site here.   

Friday, 20 March 2015

Disappearing Pipi - Presentation to Whangarei Heads Citizens' Association 19.03.15

Over 30 people attended Susan Harris' presentation to the Whangarei Heads Citizens' Association's AGM on Thursday 19 March 2015.  Interest was keen, with many questions from the floor.

Click on link below to download a copy of the presentation.

Disappearing Pipi Presentation