New Zealand's proposed "burp tax" being met with push back from agriculture industry


The “how” of countries around the world working to address climate action through legislation is taking various shapes — from aspirational goals and carbon pricing here in Canada, to fertilizer scrutiny and restrictions in the Netherlands, to taxing cow and sheep burps in New Zealand.

New Zealand’s government has aggressive climate action goals, including going carbon neutral by 2050, like Canada. Agriculture, especially livestock emissions, account for a disproportionate amount of total emissions in the country where cattle outnumber humans 2:1, and sheep 5:1.

Where New Zealand is looking to apply this levy, the Canadian government’s methane strategy unveiled in September largely left agriculture alone, acknowledging the role of grasslands in mitigating climate change and setting a 1 per cent reduction target for the agriculture sector

New Zealand’s farming industry appears supportive of the climate action goals as a whole, but hammering out what that looks like is proving controversial in the island nation.

Last week, the New Zealand government unveiled further details of its proposed new rules on handling farm-related emissions, including a regulated price for on-farm methane, carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide emissions, to begin in 2025. The proposal is open for consultation now, and some farm groups are pushing to have methane emissions considered differently, depending on where they originate from.

Federated Farmers, a national farm policy organization, wants the emissions split, to account for the difference in enteric/biogenic methane (from livestock) and greenhouse gases (mainly carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide) from fertilizer and other sources.

On its website, the organization says, “Federated Farmers is committed to the New Zealand agricultural sector achieving a 2050 goal of becoming warming neutral, as is consistent with the 2015 Paris Agreement. Such a goal demands that short-lived flow GHG emissions (biogenic methane) are reduced, but not to net-zero, by 2050 and demands that long-lived stock GHG emissions (mainly nitrous oxide and carbon dioxide) are reduced to net zero by 2050.”

A 13-member primary production group — He Waka Eke Noa — has provided a similar opinion to the government with its proposal to allow farmers to use a central calculator that accounts for both short-lived and long-term emissions. The group also supports actual calculated on-farm emissions determine the levy cost rather than the use of national averages.

The group also wants on-farm sequestration is recognized as a means to off-set the cost of the emissions levy, and that all farm-levy revenues be invested in research, development, and extension, including a dedicated fund for indigenous landowners.

The consultation is now open to determine how to account and charge for farm-related emissions, and how much farmers will have to pay. Barring an implementation by January 1, 2025, the default fee would be the New Zealand Emission Trading Scheme (NZ ETS) — likely a much higher value.

The proposal is expected to be finalized in early 2023.


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