On 4th October 2022, New Zealand’s government proposed taxing the greenhouse gases from animal agriculture as part of a plan to tackle climate change. This would be a world first, and the idea is that farmers should be able to recoup the cost by charging more for climate-friendly products.
There are 10 million bovines and 26 million sheep in New Zealand, all of them emitting methane and nitrous oxide, which have a much more powerful greenhouse effect than CO2. This is why the dairy industry has become the number one polluter in the country and one of the leading sources of the country’s contribution to climate change.
As New Zealand’s government has pledged to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and make the country carbon neutral by 2050, it needs to address animal agriculture if it wants to have a significant impact from its policies. Part of that plan includes a pledge to reduce methane emissions from farm animals by 10% by 2030 and by up to 47% by 2050. It remains to be seen if the proposed tax, which farmers would start to pay in 2025, will have the desired effect, as the farming sector has shown opposition to it.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the money collected from the proposed levy would be put back into the industry to fund new research, technology, and incentive payments for farmers. She said, “New Zealand’s farmers are set to be the first in the world to reduce agricultural emissions, positioning our biggest export market for the competitive advantage that brings in a world increasingly discerning about the provenance of their food.” In 2020, she declared a climate emergency, saying that it was “an acknowledgement of the next generation – an acknowledgement of the burden that they will carry if we do not get this right and do not take action now.”