Greenpeace Aotearoa says that a new report by the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment (PCE) shows New Zealand can’t plant its way out of climate pollution from intensive dairy. Instead, the Government has to act – and cut synthetic nitrogen fertiliser and reduce the dairy herd, for the sake of the climate and future generations.

The PCE report finds that each dairy cow in New Zealand would need more than half a hectare of fast-growing pine forest to offset their methane emissions. In total, the PCE report finds 3.9 million hectares would be required to offset the total herd of 6.2 million dairy cows; the equivalent of planting out the entire Canterbury plains.

Greenpeace lead agriculture campaigner Christine Rose says “The numbers speak for themselves. There are too many cows in this country, and the stats show intensive dairy polluters can’t plant their way out of dealing with the emissions they create.

Rose adds, “To reduce dairy emissions and protect the climate that we all rely on to survive, we must shrink the dairy herd through phasing out synthetic nitrogen fertiliser and imported feed. 

“The PCE report demonstrates that tree planting cannot replace actual emissions reductions. Offsets and technofixes are not the silver bullets the agri-industry claims.”

The PCE report acknowledges this, noting “While forestry offsets may add to other emissions reduction measures, they are no substitute for reducing emissions.”

The PCE report comes when global media attention is on the catastrophic Nord Stream pipeline methane leak in the Baltic sea, but to put it in perspective, the worst-case estimate of the Nord Stream leak is lower than New Zealand’s annual farming methane emissions.

Methane is over 80 times more potent than CO2. Each year, New Zealand livestock produces 1.2m tonnes of methane emissions, 89% of the country’s total, producing 55% of the country’s climate warming. Intensive dairying is the main source,  responsible for almost a quarter of New Zealand’s climate emissions (23.5%). The agriculture industry as a whole creates half of New Zealand’s emissions.

“New Zealand must halve the dairy herd and support the regenerative farming revolution. The government could and should support farmers to shift farming from New Zealand’s biggest polluter into an environmental solution. Plant-based regenerative organic farming works with nature, instead of against it. We can have thriving rural communities where the land, climate and people are healthy. There is no need for food production to – literally – cost the Earth,” says Rose.

Too many cows
PETITION: Halve the dairy herd

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