Climate Commission: NZ on track to miss methane targets

A principal analyst for the Climate Change Commission told a public webinar that more needs to be done to reduce agricultural emissions or the country will miss its methane targets, Marc Daalder reports from Newsroom

New Zealand is on track to miss its targets for reducing methane emissions, according to the Climate Change Commission.

Sally Garden, a principal analyst for the Commission, told a public Zoom webinar that we would fail to meet our goal – of reducing methane emissions by 10 percent by 2030 and by 24 to 47 percent by 2050 – if we continued on our current trajectory.

“There’s been about a 20 percent improvement in emissions efficiency since 1990. Based on analysis, we do expect those improvements to continue, but they will slow down. Our analysis shows that that improvement does need to be accelerated. If more is not done to reduce emissions from agriculture, then we won’t be able to meet our methane targets,” she said.

Garden also said emissions of nitrous oxide from agriculture were a concern.

“Agriculture accounts for about 88 percent of New Zealand’s methane emissions and [with nitrous oxide] it accounts for 18 percent of long-lived gas emission.”

Garden said there were two approaches to reducing agricultural emissions.

“The first one is around adjusting farm management and the second one is around the use of specific technologies to reduce emissions,” she said.

Farm management practices like reducing livestock numbers, reducing the amount of feed used or abandoning the use of synthetic nitrogen-based fertilisers could all make a difference.

“You can’t look at each one in isolation. Farms are very complex systems where all these things interact. Changing one thing can have an impact on another part of the farm system so we need to look at these as a whole farm management package.”

Garden cited the Biological Emissions Reference Group (BERG) established under the previous National-led government, which found existing farm management practices could reduce agricultural emissions by around 10 percent.

“However, the ability of farmers to implement such practices varies widely, and while some farmers might achieve such reductions without significant negative impacts on profitability, for others the impact could be large,” the group’s final report warned.

Further emissions reductions would likely require land use change, the BERG report found. Additional changes to farm management and land use aimed at protecting freshwater quality could reduce emissions another 4 percent – a finding validated by the Government’s estimate that freshwater reforms could reduce emissions by as much as 90 million tonnes by 2050.


Marc Daalder is a senior political reporter based in Wellington who covers Covid-19, climate change, energy, primary industries, technology and the far-right. Twitter: @marcdaalder.