One month ago, I wrote this article: One pledge NZ won’t sign.

It dealt with growing international momentum behind the Global Methane Pledge, pushed originally by the US and European Commission as part of the build-up to the current UN climate confab in Scotland. At the time 31 countries had signed on.

Signatories to the Pledge are committing to a collective goal of reducing global methane emissions by at least 30% from 2020 levels by 2030. The new focus on methane attempts to get a faster start on curbing global temperature rise, as methane is a far more potent heat-trapping greenhouse gas, accounting for about half of the 1.0 degree Celsius net rise in global average temperature since the pre-industrial era.

But in NZ, cows are our chief source of methane emissions … and we love our cows. Methane is about 42% of our GHG footprint, and agriculture is 89% of that.

So it comes as a bit of surprise that today the Government announced that NZ would indeed sign the Pledge, joining a train leaving the station with more than 100 other nations.

Not a good look to be left out of this party.

However …

  1. Not all countries need to meet that target individually – NZ’s current goal is substantially less (a 10% methane reduction by 2030 against 2017 levels in the Zero Carbon Act).
  2. And Climate Minister Shaw reassured New Zealanders that the Government will not introduce any new methane policies or targets as a result of this initiative.

So it’s not clear whether signing the Pledge is more than cosmetics.

Beef + Lamb NZ pointed out in response to the announcement that biogenic methane has been stable or reducing in NZ since 2001. Its chief executive commented: “Farmers are already being asked to do more than other sectors in terms of reducing emissions with the current target of a 10 percent reduction in methane by 2030 in the Zero Carbon Act. Our sector is being asked to ‘cool’ within a couple of years while carbon dioxide gets to keep adding additional warming out to 2050.”

Touché.

Methane, including that from cows and sheep, deserves all the attention it is getting lately, as the experts get more desperate about the need to curb temperature rise. But that said, each and every one of us – and every industry – contributes to the carbon dioxide emissions that will have the greatest long-term impact on our climate future.

Do the math above: 89% (agriculture) x 42% (methane) = 37% of NZ’s GHG footprint. Or shall we say hoofprint. 63% of our GHG footprint is from other causes.

It’s not all up to the animals. 

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