New Zealand pricing sheep and cow burps to cut greenhouse gases

New Zealand on Wednesday released a draft plan to put a price on agricultural emissions in a bid to tackle one of the country’s biggest sources of greenhouse gases, sheep and cattle burps.

The environment ministry said the proposal would make New Zealand, a major agricultural exporter, the first country where farmers pay for emissions from livestock.

New Zealand, home to 5 million people, has about 10 million cattle and 26 million head of sheep.

Nearly half of all greenhouse gas emissions come from agriculture, mostly methane, but agricultural emissions were previously exempted from the country’s emissions trading plan, prompting criticism of the government’s commitment to halt global warming.

Under the draft plan, compiled by the government and representatives of the farming community, farmers will have to pay for their gas emissions from 2025. Short-term and long-term farm gas will be priced separately, although a single metric is used to calculate their volume.

“There is no doubt that we need to reduce the amount of methane we are putting into the atmosphere, and an effective emissions pricing system for agriculture will play a key role in how this is achieved,” said Climate Change Secretary James Shaw.

The proposal includes incentives for farmers who reduce emissions through feed additives, while on-farm forests could be used to offset emissions. Proceeds from the project will be invested in research and development and advisory services to farmers.

“Our recommendations enable sustainable food and fiber production for future generations while playing a fair role in fulfilling our country’s climate commitments,” said Michael Ahi, Head of Primary Sector Partnership, He Waka Eke Noa.

Susan Kelsby, an agricultural economist at ANZ Bank, said the proposal would likely be the biggest regulatory disruption to agriculture since the abolition of farm subsidies in the 1980s.

A final decision on the plan is expected in December.

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