NZAGRC and PGgRc working together to create real on-farm solutions
The emissions intensity of New Zealand agriculture, that is the gases generated per unit of meat or milk produced on farms, has declined on average by about 1% since at least 1990. How? Simply because farm businesses have become more efficient over the past 20 years. Improved animal genetics and management, combined with better grassland management and feeding practices mean that farms are using resources more efficiently to increase their outputs. This has happened across all sectors of the pastoral industry.
However, the reduced emissions intensity has been more than offset by the increased overall product generated by the sector. As a result, New Zealand's total agricultural emissions have risen by 15%. Without the efficiency gains on farms, emissions would have grown much more, by more than 30%. So, while New Zealand farmers' efficiency gains are addressing a large portion of the problem, they are not enough to counter the extra GHGs being produced overall.
New Zealand has made international commitments to take action to lower its GHG emissions. Whilst the country is small by global standards, its reputation as a trading nation confers an obligation to contribute fairly towards the global effort to reduce emissions and the risks from climate change.
Farmers are already making a contribution. By continuing to improve on-farm efficiency, there is the opportunity to further reduce the intensity of emissions per unit product.
But that will not stop New Zealand's total agricultural emissions from rising. The country needs practical and cost-effective tools to help it achieve economic growth targets, as well as its environmental, social and international aspirations and obligations. That's where the PGgRc and NZAGRC fit in. Government, industry and researchers are working together, pooling resources to identify and develop additional interventions that will provide effective and practical results by 2020 and beyond.
While the most straightforward solution would be to simply reduce agricultural production or forego growth targets, that's not in the sector's nor the nation's interest - so the goal is to enable the sector to reduce its absolute emissions without sacrificing production gains.
Click here to see a visual representation of where we were, where we are and where we need to get to...
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