New research centre for climate action on agricultural emissions to be established

The Government announced today it has committed $710 million over four years through the Climate Emergency Response Fund (CERF) to accelerate efforts to lower agricultural emissions, expand the contribution of forestry to reduce carbon, and produce alternative ‘green’ fuels.

Almost $339 million is being allocated to accelerate the development of high-impact technologies and practices to reduce agricultural greenhouse gas emissions, including the establishment of the new Centre for Climate Action on Agricultural Emissions.

The food and fibre sector was the country’s biggest export earner but also its largest contributor to emissions, Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor said.

“And if we don’t take action now, we will be at risk as consumer preferences evolve,” he said.

“The key to our continued success rests on our ability to produce world-leading food and fibre products that keep pace with consumer expectations and maintain our clean and green brand. This investment will not only sharpen our competitive edge in the future, it will also unlock opportunities for careers in agri-tech and generate export revenue through product development.”

The announcement also highlighted:

  • Funding for forestry to develop alternatives to fossil fuels, boost carbon storage and increase sequestration
  • Support for producers and whenua Māori entities to transition to a low emissions future

The announcement, headed Partnership to reduce agricultural emissions, was one of several dealing with the Government’s Emissions Reduction Plan released today.

Others were:

Landmark climate plan secures path to net zero

The Government’s Emissions Reduction Plan will prepare New Zealand for the future by putting the country on track to meet its first emissions budget, securing our environment and economy.

Supercharging decarbonisation & transforming the energy system

The drive to decarbonise industry and further accelerate preparations for a sustainable, more resilient future will get a boost from the Climate Emergency Response Fund in Budget 2022 by supercharging efforts to encourage the switch to cleaner energy options and transform the energy system.

Climate investments provide path to economic security

​​​​​​The Government is investing in New Zealand’s economic security by ensuring climate change funding moves away from short-term piecemeal responses and towards smart, long-term investment.

Transport to drive down emissions

Kiwi families will be supported to make the transition to low-emission alternatives through the establishment of the Clean Car Upgrade, a scrap-and-replace trial, with funding from the Climate Emergency Response Fund.

Mr O’Connor said the new Centre for Climate Action on Agricultural Emissions will focus on applied research that drives product development.

The He Waka Eke Noa partnership has highlighted the demand from farmers and growers for products that will shift the dial on-farm so our sector can hit our emissions reductions targets, he said.

“The sooner tools are ready for farmers the sooner we move on our goal of biogenic methane reduction of 10 percent by 2030 and 24 to 47 percent by 2050.

“It [the new centre] will partner with key businesses. Work is progressing with the private sector on how they can contribute their expertise and resources,” Damien O’Connor said.

Forestry Minister Stuart Nash said $73.5 million from Budget 2022 will go towards increasing woody biomass, which – he said – offers the best alternative to coal in our efforts to reduce carbon emissions from fossil fuels.

“We want to ensure we have home-grown clean energy solutions to replace the use of coal in industrial process heat. This will increase our energy security and means we are less reliant on coal. 

“This new funding will increase New Zealand’s biomass supply by enabling planting of 10,000ha of forest.”

Funding of $256.2 million will be aimed at maximising the contribution of forestry in boosting carbon sequestration to achieve New Zealand’s future carbon goals.

“New funding will scale up native seedling production to increase native forest planting and create long term carbon sinks. It will also fund targeted research and development and stimulate private sector investment to help transform our forestry and wood processing into a high-value, high-wage sector,” Stuart Nash said.

Damien O’Connor said Budget 2022 initiatives, including just over $6 million to support the implementation of a pricing system for agricultural emissions, and $35.4 million to support farmers, growers and whenua Māori entities to transition, would complement existing initiatives under way.

“There’s a tonne of work happening in this field that can be built on, such as low emissions sheep, nitrate inhibitors and methane inhibitors for ruminants. The Government’s commitment includes integrated farm planning, supporting the more than 170 farmer-led catchment groups across the country, and the many industry-led innovation projects enabled through the Sustainable Food and Fibre Futures fund,” Damien O’Connor said.

A great deal was resting on the country’s ability to boost productivity and the value of its products while driving down environmental impacts.

The Budget 2022 initiatives would accelerate those efforts and propel the country along “our Fit for a Better World food and fibre roadmap.”

Federated Farmers said it was pleased the government had recognised solutions to agricultural emissions lay in new technologies and tools, and was stepping up investment on that front.

“Nitrate and methane inhibitors, gene editing, animals bred for their lower methane ‘burping’ – they’re the kind of advances that will enable New Zealand’s farming sector to continue to perform for the nation’s economy while maintaining our world-leading meat and dairy carbon footprint,” Feds President and climate change spokesperson Andrew Hoggard said.

But it would be important to understand how the proposed new Centre for Climate Action on Agricultural Emissions fits with existing bodies such as the NZ Agricultural Greenhouse Gas Research Centre, the Pastoral GHG Research Consortium (PGGRC) and the international bodies New Zealand partners with, such as the Global Research Alliance.

“New Zealand farmers have been funding millions of dollars into greenhouse gas mitigation tools since 2003 via the PGGRC,” Andrew Hoggard said.

It would also be crucial that the regulatory framework was worked on at the same time as acceleration of research and commercialisation of these tools “so that when they’re ready, we can get on with using them.

“At present there is no category to register feed inhibitors for use on our farms, for example,” Andrew Hoggard said.

Mr Hoggard again called for serious investigation and society-wide discussion on the role genetic technologies – particular gene editing – could play in dealing with the environmental challenge.

Sources:  The Government and Federated Farmers

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