The Government announced its Emissions Reduction Plan (ERP) … apparently to the satisfaction of virtually no one.

Far too timid for some and mis-guided for others.

We’ll be looking at the plan in depth in our July/August magazine, but here are some initial thoughts on aspects of the plan of particular interest to Hawke’s Bay.

Given that food production is the driver of half our region’s economy – and our largest source of GHG emissions – treatment of the agriculture sector is where the ERP could be expected to have the greatest impact on HB.

But the Plan seems to be a ‘no news’ plan in that regard.

Both major parties have already agreed to GHG budgets which require biogenic methane emissions from agriculture (and waste) to be 10% lower by 2030 and 24-47% lower by 2050 (compared to 2017 levels). All farms must have emissions reports by the end of this year and mitigation plans by 2025. And agricultural emissions will be priced from 2025.

So the direction of travel is set.

A huge chunk of money ($300+ million) will subsidise agribiz research into new technology efforts to minimise biogenic (animals and waste) sources of GHG emission, mainly methane. HB won’t see much, if any, of that money directly, although our pastoral farmers will certainly hope to exploit any tech breakthroughs in the years to come (e.g., animal genetics, alternative feeds).

What is disappointing in the ERP is its lack of focus on ‘here and now’ farming practices – labelled regenerative farming these days – that show ability to build-up and sequester soil carbon. Caring for our soils properly could yield more effective carbon storage than planting pine trees, with greater financial benefit to farmers.

But the ERP puts regenerative agriculture in the ‘more research is needed’ basket with marginal investment compared to high tech ‘solutions’, many more speculative than regen ag.

Meanwhile, here in Hawke’s Bay, regen farmers are already seeing the evidence they need to push ahead with regen practices. To see what this is all about, take a look at this video produced by the HB Future Farming Trust reporting on impressive results from a set of Patoka dairy farms.

Transportation is the region’s other main contributor to GHG emissions.

Because of our relatively low-sized and dispersed population, we can’t squeeze too much benefit (compared to NZ’s urban centres) from the ERP’s public transportation measures, but still there’s a bit of help for locals from the Budget 2022’s paltry two-month extension of half price fares and permanent half price concession for community card holders.

The ERP does require only zero-emissions public transport buses to be purchased by 2025. We’ll need to check into the replacement schedule for here in Hawke’s Bay.

And given our sizable low income population in HB, perhaps a few families will get some benefit from the ‘Cash for Clunkers’ plan to trial giving low income families between $6,000 and $10,000 to trade in their gas-guzzlers for more eco-friendly alternatives. But you’ll have to move fast, only 2,500 trade-ins will be supported initially.

Obviously the ERP has heaps of policies and programmes that will affect New Zealanders wherever and however we live. And we’ll be looking at those in Jul/Aug BayBuzz mag.

Those aside, as noted at the outset, the agriculture sector is of most special interest to Hawke’s Bay when it comes to climate change mitigation and adaptation and its cost. 

That said, two other critical areas for HB are still to be definitively addressed.

Afforestation is strongly supported in the ERP, but the Government hasn’t yet decided what to do about pine trees and their future role in the climate scheme. And HB has plenty of those. Forestry Minister Stuart Nash is our man on that issue.

Similarly coastal protection is a major concern for our region, with millions of dollars of plans on the drawing boards and the HBRC at the helm. There too the Government hasn’t yet decided its financial role in supporting coastal protection and/or re-location.

Stay tuned for how these will play out.

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