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David Parker

27 November, 2007

Leading the way to pastoral emissions reductions

Climate Change Minister David Parker’s address to the 3rd Greenhouse Gas and Animal Agriculture Conference 9.10am, 27 November 2007, Hotel Grand Chancellor, Christchurch

Introduction
Good morning and a special welcome to our international visitors. I am pleased to be here today in my capacity as the Minister Responsible for Climate Change Issues.

Firstly, I would like to acknowledge Professor Junichi Takahashi as the Greenhouse Gas and Animal Agriculture President, Dr Harry Clark as conference convenor, and welcome Henning Steinfeld of the FAO and David Ugalde from the Australian Greenhouse Office.

Hosting this important meeting in New Zealand is a privilege for us. It is a pleasure to be here with so many people who are making a positive contribution to a global challenge: addressing climate change. Good policy formulation relies on good science and I acknowledge the role played by you all in shaping strategies for a more sustainable world.

And sustainability is where I would like to begin my talk today. I believe that sustainability sets a useful context for discussions here on climate change and your specific work on agricultural greenhouse gas emissions. So let me take you out of the rumen for a minute.

Sustainability is a goal that can be applied in many areas of the work we do. In an environmental sense, we have many programmes in New Zealand already underway to preserve and conserve our precious resources for future generations.

But sustainability is not just about the environment. The New Zealand government sees it as an economic, social and cultural goal.

Our Prime Minister, Helen Clark, has outlined this, saying:

“Our challenge is to build a sustainable economy based on innovation and quality in a world where high volume, low quality goods and services will always undercut us on price.

Our challenge is to sustain family and community living standards in our open, competitive economy.

Our challenge is to sustain our unique culture, values, and national identity in a world of globalised media and culture.”

Perhaps there is no better current example of living ‘unsustainably’ than the issue of climate change? The issue of climate change, and how we deal with it, is one of the most important issues we face today.

Humans are producing more greenhouse gases than the earth's atmosphere can absorb - and we are already seeing signs of the predicted results - increasing temperatures, changing patterns of precipitation, rising sea levels and more extreme weather events like floods and droughts.

Release of the IPCC 4th Assessment report

Two weeks ago in Valencia the IPCC agreed its’ Synthesis Report – the culmination of the IPCC’s 4th Assessment Report. This body of work reiterates the need for concerted and urgent action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The report from the IPCC confirms the increasing pace of climate change, and the serious impacts that New Zealand and the rest of the globe may face if we do not get greenhouse gas emissions under control.

Our biologically-based economy is particularly vulnerable economically to a changing and unstable climate. Climate change is expected to bring more droughts to already drought-prone areas, and more floods to those areas that are already vulnerable to flood.

The report reiterates that with technologies that are available and affordable today, and others that are currently being developed, New Zealand along with the rest of the world can cut emissions and avoid the worst of the projected impacts of climate change.

We all have a very real opportunity to take effective action on climate change and leave ourselves better off today, and in the long run – and to act sustainably.

Addressing climate change will require cooperation across the world. We must be innovative in our approach, including helping developing countries to achieve not just climate change goals, but also their own sustainable development objectives.

I am dedicated to tackling this issue, and seeing that action is taken to protect both the country I love – New Zealand – and our global community.

Domestic policies

In New Zealand, we are well down the path to updating our climate change policies. We have designed policies that reduce emissions while making sense for our national circumstances. Policies also maximise the co-benefits of taking action on climate change, such as more efficient use of energy and improved land use management. We are also looking to balance durable efforts to reduce our emissions with preparations for the impacts of a more variable climate.

In September this year the government announced a proposed Emissions Trading Scheme, as the cornerstone of its climate change policy. The scheme will be phased in from next year and will include all sectors and gases over time.
In addition to the emissions trading scheme we have developed the Sustainable Land Management and Climate Change Plan of Action. The government is investing more than $175 million over five years in a range of programmes to help the land-based sectors to adapt to, mitigate and pursue the business opportunities of climate change. Research, technology transfer and education will be important components of this.

Agriculture

Agriculture contributes approximately 14% of global greenhouse gas emissions. However, to date, little has been invested in trying to find solutions to reduce those emissions compared with the effort and money that has gone into research for other sectors, such as energy.

While New Zealand’s total greenhouse gas emissions represent only 0.2% of global emissions, we are unique in the developed world, with almost 50% of them coming from agriculture (compared with an average in other developed countries of about 8%). The largest contribution of global livestock emissions comes from the developing world; with their emissions averaging about 27%.

Much of the New Zealand economy is based on agriculture and forestry - the foundation of our economy.

You may well have noticed New Zealand’s abundance of farms and forests on your way here to Christchurch. Nearly half New Zealand’s land area is used for primary production; with 39 percent of our total land area in pasture, 1.6 percent in horticulture and cropping, and 6.6 percent in planted production forest. Changes to the world’s climate leave these sectors vulnerable both environmentally and economically.

Like others, we’ve focussed on research to find ways to curb these emissions. Shortly I’ll speak about our vision for how we could work more collaboratively.

Work of the Pastoral Greenhouse Gas research Consortium (PGGRC)

New Zealand has institutions that are recognised around the world for their research into agricultural systems. An important contribution in recent years has come through the Pastoral Greenhouse Gas Research Consortium (or PGgRC).

This is a joint government and industry partnership that aims to understand, and provide mitigation solutions for, greenhouse gases produced by grazing animals.

The Consortium was set up in 2002. This year an extra $1.2 million a year has been committed for research by the Pastoral Greenhouse Gas Consortium increasing its investment to five million dollars each year for the next five years.

This consortium has provided a significant boost to our work in finding ways to mitigate methane and nitrous oxide.

The PGgRC has six research themes. They include rumen ecology, methanogen genomics, the development of a methane vaccine, animal selection, farm systems and adoption, and nitrous oxide mitigation.

We have successfully developed science in these areas over the last five years and the partnership between government and industry will continue to support research into the challenges presented by agricultural greenhouse gas emissions, as well as lead on the adoption of mitigation opportunities.

As well as developing a range of opportunities, the research has fed data into the New Zealand Greenhouse Gas inventory, improving the accuracy of New Zealand’s accounting under the Kyoto Protocol.

You will hear more about the work of the PGGRC and our world leading institutions during the course of this conference.

Livestock Emissions Abatement Research network “LEARN”

Through the United Nations climate change meetings New Zealand has consistently voiced the need to work with others to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture. Pastoral based industries currently have few mitigation options.

New Zealand is keen to harness the research efforts in other countries to increase the collective global effort on research related to livestock agriculture.
In this year’s Budget we announced funding of one million dollars per annum to support international collaboration in agriculture and forestry climate change research. The fund will be used to facilitate collaborative research with other countries, and to help disseminate New Zealand scientific advances in greenhouse gas mitigation overseas. We want to ensure that New Zealand continues as a world leader in pastoral agriculture greenhouse gas measurement and mitigation.

This money will also be used to help with technology and knowledge transfer to developing countries through the development of formalised collaborative relationships and exchange programmes. I understand that approximately 20 attendees are here today with funding support from New Zealand.

I wish to announce today the establishment of ‘LEARN’ - the Livestock Emissions and Abatement Research Network. Our own Pastoral Greenhouse Gas Research Consortium will be an integral part of this network.

LEARN will provide an active network for international collaboration, continuous learning and knowledge enhancement. The objectives of LEARN will be to:

  • improve the quantification of non-CO2 greenhouse gas emissions from animal agriculture; and to
  • facilitate the development of cost effective and practical greenhouse gas mitigation solutions.

LEARN will focus on information sharing and facilitate discussion and face to face contact with researchers around the world. The network will encourage partnerships and joint projects that are mutually beneficial and collaborations that remain active.

We envisage a network that exchanges data and people. That establishes joint projects that contribute toward reducing emissions. The network will be focussed strongly on research. There may also be scope to evolve the network to provide industry and policy partnership opportunities in the future.

We propose that it cover research in the following areas:

  • Methane emissions from ruminant livestock
  • Nitrous oxide emissions from grazed grassland
  • Integrated whole farm system mitigation
  • National agriculture inventory development

Elements of LEARN include:

  • The establishment of a website and an administrator to coordinate activities;
  • The establishment of a steering group (you the scientists);
  • An international conference (held every 2-3 years) to facilitate information sharing, and more regular expert workshops;
  • The establishment of a peer review committee to review and endorse relevant science that seeks funding from international organisations;
  • And importantly, funding to facilitate collaboration.

On Saturday, following the GGAA3 conference, we have planned a meeting of international scientists and policy personnel to discuss details of how LEARN could operate, including issues like membership, funding support, proposals for workshops and expert meetings. The outcomes of this meeting will be published on the LEARN website for you all to see (www.livestockemissions.net).

A number of countries have already expressed their desire for greater international collaboration and New Zealand is committed to facilitating this process and advancing progress in this area. I look forward to seeing the positive outcomes of our efforts to reduce livestock emissions.

Concluding remarks

So in conclusion, I look forward to hearing of your discussions and I wish you every success in rising to the challenge of climate change and sustainability. In your work you are ensuring that we will have the very best advice available to us on how to proceed. I believe that together we can make a difference. And I expect many of you here today will play an important role in this task. Thank you.

  • David Parker
  • Climate Change Issues