Motu Note #13

Tackling Agricultural Emissions: Potential Leadership from a Small Country

Note overview

This paper looks at the challenges New Zealand has confronted and potential solutions that have emerged while investigating the inclusion of agricultural greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in an emissions trading scheme. We argue that a small country such as New Zealand can have an important role in the global climate change mitigation efforts as a policy leader. Because agriculture is a core part of the New Zealand economy and because agricultural emissions comprise almost half of New Zealand’s GHG emissions, New Zealand has focussed on creating a knowledge base around agricultural GHG mitigation that could be valuable for other countries. 

Though the Government has delayed the inclusion of agricultural emissions into the ETS until after 2015, much has been learned about how to effectively facilitate and create incentives for agricultural mitigation. Motu ran a dialogue process over 18 months to discuss how to best to address agricultural emissions through actions in New Zealand. The group, comprised of farmers along with business, non-governmental organisations, government and Māori representatives, both informed and was informed by a wide range of technical experts. Through dialogue, the group helped frame challenges within the sector, and created ideas on how to move forward. We present these results as suggestions of how to create socially and politically sustainable and effective environmental policy within an agricultural sector.

We argue that we need to build concern and capabilities before we implement regulation; but also encourage short-term action by giving agency to those with existing concern and by giving clear signals that regulation is imminent. With a strong knowledge base and a clear vision, those involved in the agricultural sector can collaborate and innovate. If New Zealand can be successful and innovative in tackling agricultural emissions, as a small country we can help pave a way forward in this important area for green growth.