NZ joins global pledge to cut methane 30 per cent, but it may not affect farmers

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World leaders have gathered to negotiate the final details of a global bid to keep the planet under 1.5-2C. Olivia Wannan reports from Glasgow.

New Zealand has joined more than 100 countries pledging to reduce methane over the next decade.

Collectively, signatories to the pledge – officially launched Tuesday (Wednesday NZ time) – are aiming to reduce the greenhouse gas 30 per cent by the end of the decade.

Although that might seem a major step up on the 10 per cent reduction in New Zealand law, the European joint instigators of the pledge previously clarified that not all countries would need to meet the 30 per cent target individually, with oil and gas methane leaks expected to contribute much more than agriculture.

The Zero Carbon Act requires the Government to reduce methane from biological sources 10 per cent by 2030 and between 24 and 47 per cent by 2050. To stay on track for the longer-term goal, the Climate Change Commission recommended the country up this to about 12 per cent by 2030.

Methane contributes 42 per cent of New Zealand’s carbon footprint, with agriculture responsible for the vast bulk (89 per cent). Rotting waste produces about 9 per cent of the country’s methane.

In the consultation for its Emissions Reduction Plan, the Government’s sole tool to reduce agricultural methane is a pricing scheme, slated to take effect in 2025. The details of that scheme are not yet in place.

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Reductions would need to be achieved through the Government’s eventual Emissions Reduction Plan, to be released next May.

The consultation document for the plan included a range of policies to address the 9 per cent of methane coming from waste: including a ban on paper, card and food waste going to landfill.

Agriculture contributes 48 per cent of New Zealand’s emissions. The industry is also threatened by climate change effects.

Dominico Zapata/Stuff

Agriculture contributes 48 per cent of New Zealand’s emissions. The industry is also threatened by climate change effects.

Yet for agriculture, no new policies were proposed. The Government is planning to introduce a way to measure and price on-farm emissions in conjunction with the farming sector through a partnership called He Waka Eke Noa.

The global methane pledge could be a major development. According to US special presidential climate envoy John Kerry​, it could reduce planetary warming by 0.2 degrees Celsius.

“That is not insignificant,” Kerry said. “It is the fastest get you can get.”

The European Union and the US made a joint pledge in September committing to the 30 per cent goal, and asked others to come on board. Since then, countries such as the Canada, Japan and the UK signed up.

At the official launch, Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau said he wanted to see methane emissions from Canada’s oil and gas industry fall be 75 per cent.

Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau set a goal for national fossil methane emissions to fall by 75 per cent. (File photo)

Domenico Stinellis/AP

Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau set a goal for national fossil methane emissions to fall by 75 per cent. (File photo)

US president Joe Biden said his government will target both natural sources of methane, and the fossil form: natural gas. Gas wells and pipelines would be subject to new rules to prevent leaks.

Initiatives would also be launched to help ranchers and farmers to reduce methane, Biden said, “which is a significant source as well”.

European Union president Ursula von der Leyen​ said reducing methane emissions offered other benefits, alongside limiting temperature rise: the goal could prevent 200,000 premature deaths, reduce asthma and improve food supplies.

Although countries continue to join the pledge, China, India, Russia and Australia have not signed the pledge, at time of writing. All are major methane emitters.

Prior to the methane pact, New Zealand also signed up to a commitment to end deforestation and boost sustainable land use by the end of the decade.

… More to come.

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