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Forty-eight percent of New Zealand's greenhouse gas emissions come from agriculture.
At the same time, more than 38% of New Zealand's merchandisable exports come from agriculture. New Zealand is the number one contributor to the global dairy trade and other agricultural industries such as beef, wool and sheep meat contribute eight, 27 and 75% respectively, to their world marketplaces.
The global community is committed to growing more food to feed its growing population. It's estimated that by 2050 the global population will be in excess of 9 billion people. To help achieve this, and its own domestic goals, New Zealand's primary industries have a goal to double export production by 2025. To meet these production output targets, emissions are expected to increase.
However, New Zealand has committed to reducing its greenhouse gases. Recent indications are that "agriculture will need to limit its greenhouse gases to only 6-8 gigatonnes by 2030" to meet the international commitments around limiting temperature increase to less than 2 degrees Celsius as set out in the 2015 Paris Agreement. The same research shows that current practices will deliver just 21-40% of required reductions.
For New Zealand, getting the balance between increasing production and lowering emissions is critical.
How have emissions changed in recent years? What's expected in the future?
New Zealand's total emissions have risen by 15% since 1990. Without efficiency gains on farm, emissions would have risen by more than 30%. With current production and emissions modelling, we need to be reducing our emissions.
How have individual sectors' emissions changed?
Changes since 1990 are characterised by increasing dairy emissions, which more than doubled during the period to 2014, falling sheep emissions and approximately constant beef emissions.
5 Fertiliser emissions are included in seach sector based on estimated use.
What can farmers do?
Farmers are already part of the solution. By continuing to improve farm efficiency, farmers will continue to reduce the intensity of production. Read more
Is being more efficient enough to meet our commitments?
No. It's an excellent start, and makes a real difference. However, New Zealand needs practical, cost-effective tools to help achieve our economic growth targets, environmental, social and international aspirations and obligations.
While the most simple solution would be to reduce agricultural production or forego growth targets, that's not in the farming sector's not the nation's best interests. The goal is to enable the sector to reduce absolute emissions without sacrificing production gains.
What are some solutions?
There are a range of options that are currently good practice that can help reduce emissions intensity and some that reduce growth in absolute emissions. Read more
New Zealand's research into reducing livestock greenhouse gas emissions (methane, nitrous oxide) and increasing our soil carbon sinks to absorb emissions concentrates on six solutions. Read more
Here is a summary of current options from good practice, through to discovery/proof of concept