Farmers hit out at new-look ETS plan

By BLAIR ENSOR - The Marlborough Express

Last updated 13:00 09/10/2009

Marlborough farmers unleashed a scathing attack on the Government at a meeting held to discuss the Emissions Trading Scheme.

About 60 people, mostly farmers, attended The Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS), What It Means For You event last night, hosted by Marlborough Federated Farmers.

"It [the ETS] is a treacherous journey, but the risk of not being in it is too big," said Kaikoura MP Colin King, which drew loud cries of "rubbish" from the floor.

New Zealand's failure to implement an ETS could damage exports and access to markets of the wealthiest nations, Mr King said. The country's 100 per cent pure image and the tourism industry could also be tarnished.

Mr King said money raised by the ETS would be invested in the Third World – a notion which audience member Tim Gordon said was merely redistributing wealth.

"That's socialism. I thought we voted in a Right-wing Government not a Left wing," Mr Gordon said.

The revised ETS announced by the Government last month will limit the amount of greenhouse gases that different sectors of the economy can emit.

Businesses that exceed their free allocation will have to buy carbon credits from those who are under their cap.

The transport, energy and industrial sectors will join the scheme in July 2010 while the agriculture industry, which accounts for almost half of New Zealand's greenhouse gas emissions, will join in January 2015.

At the meeting, Federated Farmers national president Don Nicolson said the revised scheme was "massively improved", but the only way farmers could reduce their emissions over the next six years was by destocking.

Technology, like nitrification, would have some effect, but many more advances needed to be rolled out by 2015 if requirements were to be met, Mr Nicolson said.

Agriculture in all countries needed to come under a global emissions framework, he said, otherwise, "internationally we lose our competitiveness".

"There's no room for a middle ground, which just penalises the countries that focus on the production of food and rewards those that don't. It becomes an efficiency trading scheme not an emissions trading scheme."

From the floor, David Mack said the "Government's gullibility" in accepting climate change was a great danger and would cost the country a lot of money.

Marlborough District councillor Tom Harrison said climate change and the ETS were a "disaster".

"The scientists can't agree, this is being pushed for political and financial reasons," he said.

"If agriculture is hit we are all hit. How are we going to help them pay the cost ... This [climate change] is a farce."

Mr King admitted the science was "very young and is developing", but farmers would have to perform better on their farms to pay for the additional costs of the ETS.

The science behind climate change was also put under the microscope.

The fourth Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) assessment report released last year drew on six years of research by 2500 scientists from more than 130 countries. It stated global warming was "unequivocal", with human activity more than 90 per cent likely to be the cause of an increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide to 379 parts per million (ppm), up from 280ppm before the Industrial Revolution.

The panel warned that by 2050, there was very likely to be loss of high-value land, faster road deterioration, degraded beaches, and reduced farm and forestry production in southern and southeastern Australia and parts of eastern New Zealand.

Dr Vincent Gray, a founding member of the New Zealand Climate Science Coalition, who has studied climate change for 20 years, labelled the IPCC "corrupt" and climate change a "scam" at yesterday's meeting.

An expert reviewer for the IPCC, Dr Gray had filed 1898 submissions against the most recent report filed by the panel.

"I admit that they [carbon emissions] probably are going up and probably have an influence, but there's no evidence that emissions of greenhouse gases have a detectable effect on the climate," said Dr Gray.

The world had been cooling for the last nine years, he said.