Friday, November 11, 2022

Climate Change: Submit!

Farming industry groups today released a joint statement against their own proposal - as adopted by the government - to price agricultural greenhouse gas emissions at the farm level. Its a perfect example of the bad faith with which they have engaged in the entire process, and of the industry's ongoing climate denial and refusenikism - how they have simply refused to recognise the problem of pull their weight for the last twenty years. But its also a reminder to the rest of us that we need to submit on this proposal, to avoid the voice or urban New Zealand being drowned out by the voices of angry, motivated, climate change-denying farmers. You can make a submission here - its quite easy, basicly a series of online questions. Submissions are due by 18 November.

As for what to say, the Greens have a submission guide here. This understandably focuses on their idea for farm-level tradeable methane quotas. But IMHO that misses the point. Farm-level pricing is needlessly complex and a huge administrative burden. It is far simpler and easier to include agricultural emissions in the ETS at the processor level. They are already reporting the required information, the law for this already exists and requires only an order-in-council to bring it into force. And according to the consultation document, it would be 50% more effective at reducing emissions than any farm-level pricing option. And that is the thing we need to focus on: with overshoot looking likely, we need to reduce emissions as quickly as possible. And methane, which is 80 times more damaging to the climate than carbon dioxide, should be a priority.

Farmers will hate this. But fundamentally it is about fairness. The rest of us pay the full ETS price for every gram of carbon we emit. Why should farmers - a tiny, dirty, inefficient minority - be exempt? Why should we subsidise their profits?

But merely implementing the backstop of including emissions in the ETS isn't enough. We should also demand that there be no free allocation for agricultural emissions. If the government insists that there be some transition, then it should be phased out over five or ten years, not the 95 years it is currently proposing. Contrary to its rhetoric, this industry is not trade-exposed. And it has already had 20 years to prepare for emissions pricing. And if they have not, then whose fault is that? The rest of New Zealand should not be subsidising the poor business decisions of a climate-denying industry.

Currently, we are providing farmers with a 100% subsidy of their emissions - we pay for them, and they don't pay a cent. The cost of that subsidy is $3.47 billion a year at today's carbon price; at the government's internal valuation of $150 / ton, its $5.9 billion a year. The opportunity cost of this subsidy is enormous. Those free cow burps are our schools and hospitals and public transport. They're the wage rises for our teachers and nurses and doctors. They are literally why we cannot have nice things.

The name of the emissions pricing project, "he waka eke noa", roughly means "we are all in this together". That means making farmers pay their way and play their part. We should not have to carry them any longer.