Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Climate change: Time to make farmers pay their own way

Farmers are New Zealand's biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions. In 2013, their cows and sheep pissed, shat and burped out 39.2 million tons of carbon dioxide-equivalent - 48% of our national total. And yet under National's policies, they don't pay a cent for it. But the Ministry for the Environment is finally suggesting changing that:

Farmers might have to pay for their emissions like everyone else under a revision of the Government's main climate change policy.

The Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS), which puts a price on greenhouse gas emissions, is being reviewed this year.

A briefing paper produced for the Government by the Ministry for the Environment said it expected the review to consider agriculture's entry into the scheme.

A ministry spokeswoman said this did not amount to a recommendation to the Government and was simply a comment on the scope of the review. The terms of reference had not yet been determined by the Cabinet, she said.

This is important. Without a price signal, farmers have no incentive to invest in reducing their emissions, and no incentive to even look for one. Meanwhile, the cost of their polluting animals is borne by the rest of us - an effective subsidy to rich farmers. Its unjust as well as stupid policy.

Sadly, I expect National will refuse to even look at the proposal. Their job as a party is to give farmers a free ride, and that's what they'll do. But remember that next time you get your power bill: it is higher because John Key is making you pay for farmers' pollution.