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New Zealand proposes climate plan that would tax farmers more

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In a couple of years, a cow burp could really cost you! Recently, New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Arden unveiled plans to put a price on the climate cost of farming. Among calls for climate action, some are saying that farmers’ “free ride” on the issue of emission reduction needs to end.

The plan is billed as a world-first, and the consultation document could be signed by New Zealand’s Cabinet early next year. In a similar play, California reduced methane produced by dairy farms. However, California reduced their emissions through incentives — not taxes.

According to NPR, Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor said it was an exciting opportunity for New Zealand and its farmers.

“Farmers are already experiencing the impact of climate change with more regular drought and flooding,” O’Connor said. “Taking the lead on agricultural emissions is both good for the environment and our economy.”

Farmers, on the other hand, are condemning the government’s plan. The greenhouse gas reduction plan released today will cut sheep and beef production in New Zealand by 20 percent and dairy farming by 5 percent.

“Federated Farmers is deeply unimpressed with the government’s take on the He Waka Eke Noa proposal and is concerned for our members’ futures,” Federated Farmers national president and climate change spokesperson Andrew Hoggard said, according to New Zealand’s FedsNews. “We didn’t sign up for this. It’s gut-wrenching to think we now have this proposal from government which rips the heart out of the work we did. Out of the families who farm this land.

New Zealand’z ACT party says that the proposals could actually hurt, not help, emissions by shifting production offshore to nations that are less climate efficient. 

“Farmers are the victims of the government’s obsession with overseas plaudits, the prime minister wants to go on the world stage and say that New Zealand is the first country to price agricultural emissions. She won’t admit that her government’s proposal only leads to more emissions,” said ACT’s Primary Industries spokesperson Mark Cameron.

The ACT Party says that the New Zealand government needs to take into account the warming impacts of different gasses such as short-lived methane and long-lived gases like CO2. 

The proposed plan comes alongside New Zealand’s net-zero emissions target for 2050. By 2025, farmers who meet the threshold for herd sizes and fertilizer usage will be required to pay a levy to the government every three years. The government says that the revenues from the levy will be put towards new technologies, research, and incentive payments towards farmers who are using climate-friendly methods.

New Zealand has about 5 million people but roughly 10 million beef and dairy cattle and 26 million sheep. And the nation is relatively unique in that farming is blamed for about half of the nation’s carbon emissions.

However, across the world, electricity, transportation, and manufacturing are the highest emission-emitting industries.

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