Environmental groups say it is futile and cynical for the government to sign a global pact to drastically reduce methane emissions when it has no plans to achieve the goal itself.
More than 100 countries have agreed to reduce global methane emissions by a third by 2030.
Countries are not required to make 30 percent cuts at the national level.
Methane is one of the most powerful greenhouse gases, responsible for a third of the human influence on global warming.
But New Zealand farmers will breathe a sigh of relief.
Because although the government has joined the commitment, it has no plans to reach the global reduction target of 30 percent.
It is sticking to the current goal of reducing national agricultural methane emissions, about half of our total greenhouse gas production, by 10 percent by the end of the decade.
Greenpeace’s Christine Rose said that makes the promise meaningless.
“Everybody wants to go to heaven, but nobody wants to die.
“And this is a similar case where we all want to sign these global agreements to feel good … but in reality, even taking the easy steps to address the dairy industry’s contribution to climate change is a step too far … [for] this government. “
Rose said it undermines the cuts efforts that other countries will have to make on our behalf.
“It is especially cynical because, as a developed nation, we should be and are expected to do more, but this promise makes it clear that we are doing less than everyone else.”
Forest and Bird CEO Kevin Hague said “This is a clear example that the government has failed to deliver on climate change. [action].
“It’s just making a gesture and that’s completely inappropriate.”
But as the director of the Agricultural Greenhouse Gas Research Center, Dr. Harry Clark, points out, there is simply no way New Zealand can match the compromise without requiring farmers to drastically reduce herd sizes.
“Given the profile of our methane emissions, our emissions are dominated by emissions from ruminant animals, it would be very difficult for us to meet that without a major disruption in the agricultural sector.”
Ralph Sims, an emeritus professor of climate at Massey University, said the government is caught between a rock and a hard place.
“If we don’t sign up, they’ll consider us an outcast and criticize us politically.”
Climate Change Minister James Shaw put it this way.
“What if I had said, ‘Actually, I tell you one thing, we already have a work program to deal with methane, so we are not going to sign this pledge.’
“What would you be saying then?”
He said the government was working on plans, set for 2025, that would make New Zealand one of the first countries to put a price on agricultural emissions.
“We’ve been saying for some time that countries really need to focus on methane in a way that we’ve really started to work on it.
“And this statement says that there are more than 100 countries in the world that are going to sign up to do something about their methane problem.”
Shaw said the emphasis in global engagement was primarily on plugging fossil methane leaks in the oil and gas infrastructure, and the government has committed to completing the removal of these gases.
World leaders are now leaving the COP26 meeting and leaving their negotiators to work out the details to try to keep warming below catastrophic levels.