Anything to protect the environment 

As part of a strategy to combat climate change, the government of New Zealand has proposed a tax on the greenhouse gases that farm animals produce when they urinate and burp. 

Who is to pay this tax? 

The country’s farmers. The government has committed to cutting greenhouse gas emissions and achieving carbon neutrality by 2050. A plan to cut farm animal methane emissions by 10% by 2030 and up to 47% by 2050 is a part of that commitment. The government said that the farm levy would be a first in the world and that farmers should be able to recover the cost by raising the prices of items that are environmentally friendly. 

What’s the reaction from farmers? 

Farmers swiftly denounced the proposal. The industry’s main lobbying group, Federated Farmers, argued that the idea would “tear the guts out of small-town New Zealand,” and replace farms with trees, as farmers would be forced to abandon farming. According to Andrew Hoggard, president of Federated Farmers, farmers have been working with the government for more than two years to develop an emissions reduction strategy that won’t reduce food production. If the government’s plan goes through, farmers would begin paying for emissions in 2025, though the pricing has not yet been decided. 

How significant are farm animals on climate change? 

Particularly through methane from the burps of cattle and nitrous oxide from their urine, farm animals emit gases that warm the planet. The farming industry is an important part of New Zealand’s economy, with Dairy products being its top foreign exchange earner through export. With a population of only 5 million people, New Zealand has 26 million sheep, and 10 million dairy and beef cattle. The impact of this is that farms are responsible for nearly half of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions. 

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New Zealand’s plan regarding farming’s effects on the environment is a part of a larger global debate on the measures necessary to combat climate change. The plan, however, faces obstacles from farmers, and the opposition party. The plan, according to opposition lawmakers from the conservative ACT Party, would actually raise global emissions by shifting farming to nations that are less effective at producing food. 

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