By Robin Grieve on the nzcpr website

The Government has released its plan to tax farmers for their livestock emissions. ‘World First’ rang the headlines as journalists celebrated New Zealand becoming the first country to price these emissions. Announcing that we are the first or world leading, implies others will follow but that is unlikely. Why would they be so silly? Most countries don’t regard shooting yourself in the foot as a good idea.

By the Government’s own modelling its scheme will send 20% of beef and sheep farmers and 5% of dairy farmers out of existence. Out of existence will also go their share of the $30b export earnings the sectors earn each year. That’s quite a lot less Keytruda for our cancer patients and is a high price to pay for something that is as uncertain and undefined as the financial cost of any global warming that might be avoided by such a policy. 

The National Party announced that it would repeal the Government’s plan if elected and instead implement the farmers own proposal which is a plan called, He Waka Eke Noa (HWEN).

He Waka Eke Noa either means “It’s a Free Ride” or “We Are All In This Together” depending on which translation tool you choose.

National should not pin its hopes on adopting what it calls the farmers scheme because it was never really the farmers’ scheme. Adopting it is not backing the farmers at all. HWEN is also only marginally less harmful than what the Government proposes and will not be effective climate policy.

HWEN was a proposal produced by a partnership that had only some farmer representation on it, but the Government was in there too. More importantly it was extremely limited in what it was allowed to do. The Government had previously legislated that livestock emissions must be priced in the Emission Trading Scheme (ETS) by January 2025, and it used the threat of the ETS to force HWEN to only propose a pricing scheme, as an alternative to the ETS, that the Government would accept.

The choice farmers had was no more than which of these bad pricing scheme do you want? It was akin to giving a condemned man a choice of execution methods. The Prime Minister made much of the supposed consensus between farmers and the Government when she announced her government’s pricing scheme, but there is no consensus. If there ever was any consensus between farmers and the Government, it was that HWEN was the better of two evils for farmers and it was something the Government would accept.

Ironically had the Government not messed with HWEN and just adopted it, James Shaw would have had a famous policy victory of establishing a pricing scheme that the farmers had agreed to, albeit reluctantly.  There would be no going back from there for farmers or the opposition.

Then along came the Climate Commission to torpedo the dream. It recommended that something like HWEN be adopted but only after it was gutted of the bits that made it almost palatable to farmers. It also reported that livestock emissions should not be put in the ETS because the ETS was too poorly designed to cope with them.

This was the opportunity the farming industry missed to take control of the situation. With the threat of the ETS now gone and HWEN in ruins the Government had no plan. Freed of the constraints of the ETS threat and the cumbersome compromise of HWEN, a new sensible climate policy that did not decimate rural New Zealand was there for the taking had farming leaders only just stepped up and pushed for it, but they didn’t. If National and ACT want to back farmers, they must not only dump the Government’s plan but HWEN as well and work with farmers on a more credible climate policy, one that is really theirs and one that will achieve something.

Despite what the alarmists say, questions persist about how much of a problem global warming is and how much impact anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gas are having. Questions persist on whether reducing emissions is a credible response to whatever is or isn’t happening. But the one area that is not in dispute is that the way livestock emissions have been characterised by the political side of global warming is wrong. Quantifying them as producing half New Zealand’s greenhouse gas emissions is just scientifically wrong. New Zealand has made commitments to reduce emissions based on false information about livestock emissions and in the absence of a government that is brave enough to fix the errors, we are stuck with them. The irony of it is that if global warming is the crisis the alarmists say it is, it will only get worse because the effectiveness of climate policy is limited due to this error.

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