Soon a tax on flatulence and rotting of cattle in New Zealand? – Ouest-France evening edition

Correspondence, Benjamin CHABERT

A strategy presented by the New Zealand Ministry of the Environment and representatives of livestock farmers on Wednesday (8 June) proposes making sheep and cow farmers pay for the methane emitted by their livestock. This greenhouse gas accelerates climate change. A law could be adopted by December.

(Map: West-France)

In New Zealand, the government wants to make cattle farmers pay for the flatulence and rotting emitted by their livestock. Not to punish sheep and cows for their bad ways, but to incentivize farmers to reduce methane emissions. In the land of plump sheep, this gas 80 times more warming for the atmosphere than CO₂ represents 20% of total emissions from livestock, which itself contributes half of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. of the country… The ransom of a bucolic, verdant archipelago, in the heart of the Pacific, where there are still two cows (10 million) and five sheep (26 million) per inhabitant…

Read also: Cop26 declares war on methane: why this gas is much more dangerous than CO₂

Bill livestock farmers for the methane emitted

To raise the bar, the initiative, presented by “He Waka Eke Noa”, a group that brings together representatives of breeders and government officials committed to agriculture with less greenhouse gas emissions, plans, by 2025, producer per kilogram of methane emitted by sheep and cows 7 New Zealand dollar cents (about 4 euro cents) per year.

After this date, the tax could even increase. Per head, this represented a very different cost depending on whether it is a sheep or a cow: experts estimate that sheep produce an average of 8 kilograms of methane per year (about 3.20 €), against 90 kilograms (around €36) for dairy cows… On a New Zealand scale, this tax could therefore bring in the equivalent of several million euros.

If some breeders are already denouncing an additional burden on the sector, which alone represents more than half of exports, the government assures for its part that the money will have to be used to finance research programs on the reduction of methane emissions, the development of alternative solutions and advice to breeders. The plan also provides financial incentives for the adoption of food additives and the extension of wooded areas.

A herd of merino sheep at Lindis Pass in the heart of New Zealand’s South Island. (Photo: WILLIAM WEST / AFP)

Individual calculations by satellite

Studies have shown that a diet less rich in roughage but higher in starch can have an impact on reducing methane emissions, such as the addition of seeds or flaxseed oil, which would be able to reduce by 10 15% emissions. These solutions could allow New Zealand – like a hundred countries – to meet its commitment to reduce methane emissions by 30% globally by 2030, a target set at COP26 in Glasgow, in 2021.

To reassure breeders, the working group specified that the calculations will not be based on a national average, but will be individualized. This individualization will be possible thanks to the MethaneSAT satellite, which must be sent into orbit this year to fulfill this mission.

Funded by the United States and New Zealand, this program stands out for its precision: it will be able to measure the smallest sources of emissions. And to allow the government to draw up a rotten bill… or almost.

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