National supports Government partnership with industry to tackle agricultural emissions

A memorandum of understanding between the Government and agribusiness leaders as part of the establishment of the Centre for Climate Action on Agricultural Emissions – involving am investment of $172 million from all parties to the agreement – was announced by the Government early this week.

This was quickly supported by the National Party .

“The Government needs to work constructively with our farmers to enable them to continue to lead the world in lowering agricultural emissions,” National’s Agriculture spokesperson Barbara Kuriger said. 

“Science and technology will play a big part in that, so government funding should be directed towards progressing innovative developments in this space.” Continue reading

Update on national soil carbon benchmarking and monitoring

Under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Paris Agreement, New Zealand every year must report its national human-produced (anthropogenic) greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and removals, including changes in soil organic carbon (SOC) stocks.

With average soil carbon stocks in New Zealand’s agricultural soils estimated at about 100 tonnes per hectare in the top 30 cm, any change in soil carbon could make a significant contribution to carbon footprints at national, industry and farm scales.

Soil carbon monitoring sites across five land-use classes.

National-scale changes of SOC stocks in mineral soils are currently predicted based on transitions of land use (for example, forest to pasture) using a statistical model calibrated with historical data.

The model assumes that SOC doesn’t change if there isn’t a change in land use (for example, if an area remains in long-term pasture). Continue reading

B+LNZ says it’s time for farmers to know their GHG numbers

Farmers from Southland to the Far North are taking part in workshops to know their greenhouse gas (GHG) numbers and create action plans. Meat processors are teaming up with Beef and Lamb NZ to deliver many of these workshops.

Under He Waka Eke Noa, the primary sector’s climate change commitment to measure, manage and reduce GHG emissions, farmers will need to know their farm’s annual GHG numbers by December.

By January 2025, they will need to have a written plan in place for measuring and managing their emissions.

The B+LNZ workshops are being hosted in partnership with Silver Fern Farms and Greenlea Premier Meats. Continue reading

Science organisations combine to plot a path to net carbon zero

Eight government-owned science organisations have joined forces to accelerate the reduction of their greenhouse gas emissions.

The seven Crown Research Institutes and Callaghan Innovation, after working individually on this challenge for some years, have come together for a week-long series of online workshops to share best practice and insights on how to get to net carbon zero in their operations as quickly as possible.

Workshop co-ordinator Roger Robson-Williams, of Plant & Food Research, said the initiative will enable the organisations to pool their knowledge and experience and achieve more in their greenhouse gas emission programmes. Continue reading

 Plan to transform food processing waste could benefit NZ economy and environment

Micro-organisms found in bacteria and fungi could help change food waste into high-value products that would boost New Zealand’s economy by $1.6 billion a year and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

A research project led by University of Canterbury Environmental Science Professor Brett Robinson aims to find ways to turn waste products from New Zealand’s food production industry – such as milk processing waste and grape marc (skins and stalks) – into high-value soil conditioners and animal feed.

He says about 2.2 million tonnes of food processing waste products are dumped each year in New Zealand, costing about $270 million a year and increasing our greenhouse gas emissions.

“What we are aiming to do is create a more sustainable, circular agricultural economy, where biowaste can be transformed into useful new products to help feed animals or improve our soils.

“There’s huge potential to create a win-win situation where we dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions while also potentially boosting our economy by more than $1.6 billion annually.” Continue reading

Feds say GM discussion offers solution to GHG challenge

As reports on efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions continue to be rolled out, it was the government’s reaction to another report – the Productivity Commission’s recommendations on genetic engineering – that caught Federated Farmers’ attention.

Federation president and climate change spokesperson Andrew Hoggard said farmers were intensely interested in further reducing their world-leading GHG emissions footprint per kilogram of food produced.

But the federation has been saying for several years that new tools are needed to do this.

“Genetic modification is one of those new technologies that offers exciting potential,” he said.

Last year, the Productivity Commission’s ‘Reaching for the Frontier’ final report said the Government should undertake a full review of the regulation of genetic modification (GM), to ensure it is fit for purpose and supports domestic innovation. Continue reading

A global love for processed foods is hurting agricultural biodiversity – and our health

A global diet that increasingly includes ultra-processed foods is having a negative impact on the diversity of plant species available for human consumption while damaging human and planetary health, according to a commentary published in the journal BMJ Global Health.

Experts are warning that an increasingly unhealthy diet is not only bad for human health directly but is causing environmental damage to the planet.

Ultra-processed foods such as sweetened or salty snacks, soft drinks, instant noodles, reconstituted meat products, pre-prepared pizza and pasta dishes, biscuits and confectionery, are made by assembling food substances, mostly commodity ingredients, and ‘cosmetic’ additives (notably flavours, colours and emulsifiers) through a series of industrial processes.

These products are the basis of a ‘globalised diet’ and are becoming dominant in the global food supply, with sales and consumption growing in all regions and almost all countries. Currently, their consumption is growing fastest in upper-middle-income and lower-middle income countries.

Consequently, dietary patterns worldwide are becoming increasingly more processed and less diverse, having an impact on agrobiodiversity – the variety and variability of animals, plants and microorganisms used directly or indirectly for food and agriculture. Continue reading

Genetic engineering can have a positive effect on the climate


The use of genetically modified (GM) crops in agriculture remains contentious in many parts of the world – including New Zealand.   Surveys show many people fear these crops could have negative effects on human health and the environment. But a new study shows genetically modified crops could be good for the environment, and for the climate in particular.

Agriculture accounts for around 25 per cent of all greenhouse gas emissions worldwide. A large share of these emissions is due to livestock production and fertiliser use.

More than one-third of agriculture’s emissions is caused by land-use change, however, especially the conversion of forests and other nature reserves to agricultural land in order to satisfy the rising global demand for food and feed.

“Using better technologies to increase crop yields on the land already cultivated could reduce this land-use change and the associated emissions,” says study author Prof. Dr. Matin Qaim, Director of the Center for Development Research at the University of Bonn.

Certain types of genetically modified crops — such as GM maize and soybean — are widely grown in other parts of the world, but hardly in Europe.

“The main reasons are public acceptance issues and political hurdles,” says Dr Qaim. Continue reading

Emissions down 11 per cent in one quarter but 12-months decline was just 0.4 per cent

Seasonally adjusted greenhouse gas emissions from industries and households fell 11 per cent over the September 2021 quarter according to new Stats NZ figures.

That followed a 4.7 per cent increase in the June 2021 quarter.

The September 2021 quarter fall in gross emissions was largely due to a reduction in coal use for electricity generation. COVID-19 alert level restrictions and nationwide/regional lockdowns also contributed.

Emissions decreased across all industry groupings in the September 2021 quarter, as COVID-19 restrictions took hold in the second half of the quarter.

The largest industry contributors to this decrease were electricity, gas, water, and waste services, down 33 per cent (969 kilotonnes); manufacturing, down 10 per cent (273 kilotonnes); and transport, postal, and warehousing, down 17 per cent (156 kilotonnes). Continue reading

A global plant-based diet could have a massive impact on reducing global warming

Phasing out animal agriculture around the globe in favour of a plant-based diet would substantially reduce greenhouse gas emissions,  according to international modellers.

The team modelled the impact on emissions of phasing out animal agriculture over the next 15 years, which they say could reduce emissions by the equivalent of 25 gigatons of carbon dioxide each year.

The researchers say their model is limited by the assumption that land currently used for agriculture would be returned to more environmentally-friendly use, and they have not fully considered the viability of switching to a plant-based diet in areas where cropping is difficult.

Michael Eisen, of the University of California, Berkeley, and Patrick Brown, of Stanford University and Impossible Foods, have presented their findings in the open-access journal PLOS Climate.   Continue reading