Friday, December 20, 2019

Climate Change: We need this to happen more often

Farmers are outraged over approval being granted to Dryland Carbon - a dedicated New Zealand offsetting firm - to buy 1065 hectares of farmland on the east coast. It's taking land out of production, they say. People will never farm there again!

Yes, and that's the point. Farming is our biggest polluter, and if we want to cut greenhouse gas emissions, we need to do less of it. Which isn't really a problem, because we export 95% of what we produce, so we can do this without any impact on our food supplies. Add on to that that the mass clearance of native bush for farmland is one of the reasons we are in this mess in the first place.

Also, in this case the land in question is east coast hill country, which really shouldn't be farmed anyway. Turning it into a mix of native forest and pine takes it out of production and draws down some of the carbon we've spewed - in this case, about 750,000 tons. Which is quite a lot. Do it a hundred more times, and we've soaked up a year's worth of emissions.

The good news is that we don't need to do much to make this happen. Hill country sheep and beef farming is a marginal economic activity, and thanks to the ETS, its now less profitable than planting trees (and if carbon prices rise much higher, the value of averted farm emissions will be higher than the flow-on local business). Tough for those sorts of farmers, but good for all of us who don't want to burn down or drown. So, the quicker carbon prices rise to further incentivise this, the better.