Greenpeace is raising red flags that the agriculture industry, New Zealand’s biggest emitter, could escape being held responsible for nearly half of the country’s climate emissions under the proposed Zero Carbon Act.

The Act was launched today for public consultation, and outlines three potential pathways to reach “net zero” by 2050. One of the options would see agricultural emissions – which account for 49% of all New Zealand’s emissions – being ignored.

Greenpeace climate campaigner, Kate Simcock, says the Labour-led Coalition must legislate a target of zero emissions by 2050 at the very latest, and one that includes all sectors and all emissions.

“Anything that neglects to include half of the country’s climate pollution would not be taking collective responsibility for climate change – a global challenge that effects everyone,” she says.

“It is no surprise that the dairy industry want to keep their gases out of the Act – they are the worst industry for avoiding responsibility for emissions. As the single biggest emitting industry in the country, it would be a travesty to exclude dairy and agricultural gases like methane, which make up half of New Zealand’s total emissions.”

The Zero Carbon Act Discussion Document leaves open the question of whether the 2050 net zero target should include all greenhouse gases (including methane and nitrous oxide), or only carbon dioxide. It also questions whether we can meet our commitments by buying carbon credits on the international market instead of reducing our own domestic emissions, and whether a fixed target should be legislated or left to the Climate Commission to decide.

Simcock says without including agricultural emissions, and banning international carbon credits from being purchased instead of actively reducing New Zealand’s emissions, the Zero Carbon Act would be a much weaker climate commitment than what has been promised.

“We’ve told the world we’re going to be leaders on climate change. That means we have to be all in and as ambitious as we can,” she says.

“If we were competing in the Olympics, we’d be aiming for gold, not bronze. We need to do the same in the race to save the planet. Climate change is the greatest threat facing humanity, and we can’t claim climate leadership by polluting and buying our way out of it.”