New Zealand proposes cow, gets burp tax to limit emissions | News about the climate crisis

The world-first tax would take effect in 2025, but farmers say it will destroy food production.

New Zealand’s government has proposed taxing the greenhouse gases produced by livestock burping and urinating as part of a plan to tackle climate change.

The government said the agricultural tax announced on Tuesday would be a world first and that farmers should be able to recoup the costs by charging more for climate-friendly products.

But farmers quickly condemned the proposal, which would be introduced in 2025.

Federated Farmers, the industry’s main lobby group, said the tax would “rip the guts out of small-town New Zealand” and affect food production because farms would be replaced with trees.

“Our plan was to keep farmers in agriculture,” Federated Farmers president Andrew Hoggard said. Instead, he said, farmers would sell their farms “so fast you don’t even hear the dogs barking in the back of the wagon as they drive off”.

There are only 5 million people in New Zealand, but 10 million beef and dairy cattle and 26 million sheep.

Livestock produce gases that warm the planet, especially methane from cattle farts and nitrous oxide from their urine.

Black and white cattle in a lush green field with mountains in the background
New Zealand’s dairy industry is the largest exporter [File: Mark Baker/AP Photo]

Almost half of New Zealand’s total greenhouse gas emissions come from agriculture, which was previously exempt from the country’s emissions trading scheme.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told reporters the proposal would make New Zealand’s farmers not only the best in the world, but the best for the world.

“New Zealand’s farmers are set to be the first in the world to reduce agricultural emissions, positioning our largest export market for the competitive advantage that brings a world increasingly discerning about the provenance of their food,” said Ardern, there declared a climate emergency in 2020.

The plan proposes that prices for long-lived gases such as carbon dioxide are set annually based on domestic emission prices for other sectors, while a price for biogenic methane will be calculated following advice from the Climate Commission.

The proposal would provide financial incentives for farmers to use technology to limit sheep and cow burping, while the money farmers pay for their emissions will be reinvested in the sector.

The government has pledged to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and make the country carbon neutral by 2050. Part of that plan includes a commitment to reduce methane emissions from livestock by 10 percent by 2030 and by up to 47 percent by 2050.

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