Cutting the number of farm animals in New Zealand – recommended in a Productivity Commission report out today – is a win-win for the climate and for fresh water, says Forest & Bird.
“This report is an important reminder that we can’t keep pushing the planet beyond its physical capacity,” says Forest & Bird climate advocate Adelia Hallett.
“If we are to avoid disasters like runaway climate change and dying rivers, we have to learn to live with nature.”
The report, into New Zealand’s transition to a low-carbon economy, stresses that nitrous oxide (caused by stock urine and the use of artificial nitrogen fertilisers) must be reduced. Ms Hallett says in a practical sense, this means reducing cow numbers and the amount of fertiliser used on farms.
Other measures recommended by the commission, including putting a price on greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture and getting rid of fossil fuels as quickly as possible, are also being welcomed by Forest & Bird.
"We've got about a decade to make serious cuts in greenhouse gas emissions if we want a planet that is habitable for us and for our native wildlife," says Ms Hallett. "That means we have to pull every lever we can, as quickly as possible, and no sector can be exempt."
The agriculture sector is responsible for nearly half the country's greenhouse gas emissions.
Forest & Bird is also pleased to see the report acknowledge the critical role nature plays in checking climate change.
“Our native ecosystems – from our forests and soils through to the oceans – are massive carbon sinks, dwarfing the amount of carbon stored in commercial forests,” says Ms Hallett.
“They are what’s stopping the world tipping into an uninhabitable state known as Hothouse Earth, and it’s essential we look after them. Relatively simple and cheap actions like effective pest control in our native forests can make an enormous difference.”