Meat & Livestock News

New Zealand’s Drive for Carbon Offsetting Raises Alarms for Rural Livelihoods

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A Beef+Lamb NZ report is warning of risks to New Zealand’s farming communities due to the current focus on carbon offsetting. According to the study, land use is shifting dramatically towards plantation forestry, driven largely by the Emission Trading Scheme (ETS).

This policy aims to mitigate carbon emissions and aligns with the country’s global pledge to plant one billion trees. But experts caution that such changes are putting traditional agriculture, especially sheep and beef farming, at a disadvantage.

Critics argue that agriculture, a key sector for New Zealand’s economy, has been unfairly scapegoated for the nation’s emissions.

They point out that the Labour government’s policies, particularly around methane reduction, are unbalanced and lack scientific grounding. Critics note that these policies enable fossil fuel firms to offset all their emissions, giving them an unfair edge over traditional farmers.

Data from Beef+Lamb NZ’s Economic Service indicates a 41% decline in pastoral land over the last three decades, impacting sheep and beef farming the most. Meanwhile, New Zealand’s population has grown by 53% since 1990, but there hasn’t been a corresponding investment in infrastructure to cope with these changes.

The study also finds that the push for carbon farming is harming rural communities. Hill country farms, which are already vulnerable, are most likely to be converted to forestry. The subsequent loss of local jobs and businesses, along with rising land prices for forestry since 2019, is making it tempting for landowners to sell.

The report concludes by calling for more balanced government policies that don’t unfairly favour carbon offset schemes over traditional farming, urging that a failure to do so could have long-term consequences for rural New Zealand.