Meat & Livestock News

Southland on the Brink of a Greenhouse Gas Revolution

The picturesque region of Southland, often celebrated for its verdant terrains and agricultural expertise, has recently garnered attention for an entirely different achievement. Over the last five years, this region has witnessed an impressive 14.8% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. 

This notable transformation can be attributed to a deliberate decrease in livestock numbers and a strategic pivot towards decarbonising multiple boilers, as elucidated in the Southland Regional Greenhouse Gas Emissions Inventory report, an insightful document by Great South.

In 2022, Southland’s emissions were quantified at an astounding 6,753,059 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent. Yet, when one incorporates the positive impact of forestry carbon sequestration, the net emissions for the region are recalibrated to 4,947,505 tonnes. 

This figure represents a heartening 14.8% descent from the 2018 benchmark and an 8.8% reduction from the previous year’s statistics.

A closer examination of the report reveals that the cornerstone of this downward trend has been the intentional reduction in livestock numbers in the recent half-decade. 

To provide a numerical perspective, the count of dairy cattle receded from 681,000 in 2018 to 636,000 in 2022. 

In a parallel vein, the sheep population contracted from 3.737 million in 2018 to a more modest 3.281 million in 2022. However, it’s worth noting that beef cattle numbers observed a marginal increase during this interval.

Yet, in the face of these laudable strides, the agricultural domain remains the predominant source of the region’s emissions, accounting for a substantial 64.5% of the overall figure. The lion’s share of these emissions originates from dairy cows and sheep. 

Trailing behind is the stationary energy sector, contributing 17% to the total emissions, with significant inputs from the electricity consumed at the Tiwai smelter and the fossil fuels utilised in milk processing facilities.

Coal, a staple in dairy and meat processing and its role in diverse heating and boiler systems stands out as a chief emitter in the stationary energy sector. 

The report underscores the imperative to transition industries towards greener alternatives, emphasising entities like the Tiwai smelter and Fonterra’s Edendale operations.

Steve Canny, the strategic projects overseer at Great South, accentuates the magnitude of the 14.8% reduction, spotlighting the collaborative endeavours across all sectors in Southland. 

He underscores that 91 of Southland’s 189 coal-driven boilers have transitioned to greener alternatives like electricity and wood biomass-fired boilers, culminating in diminished greenhouse gas emissions. 

Canny further elucidates that the shift in livestock numbers is a byproduct of converting fertile farmlands into carbon forests and a conscious choice by several farmers to moderate stock intensity, thereby refining production yields.

Moreover, Canny draws attention to the emissions from the Tiwai smelter. While they are modest globally, there is an opportunity for further depreciation. He also commends the pivotal role of government grants in propelling decarbonisation endeavours across diverse sectors.