Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Farming within environmental limits

Here is a copy of a brief article by Dr Dan Marsh, which was recently published in the new magazine Primary. It discusses the "Natural Capital" approach to setting limits of runoff from farms (for water quality reasons) as adopted by Horizon regional council.

The idea of farming within environmental limits has attracted a lot of attention in recent months. Some of the debate has been around the allocation and setting of nitrogen leaching limits; limits on the amount of nitrogen that can be allowed to leach from a farm or catchment into rivers or lakes. The recent environment court decision on the Horizon's Proposed One Plan (POP) has put the spotlight on the Natural Capital Approach (NCA) which allocates nitrogen leaching rights at a flat rate per hectare that varies with land use class (LUC).

Motu has done a bit of work looking at an alternative approach of nutrient trading - trading the nutrient emissions that pollute waterways within their catchments under a total cap. This ensures waterways can be protected, while the allowable amount of nutrient run off can happen where it can be most efficiently utilised. Dan Marsh touches on this approach in his article too.

Some of Motu's 2009 work on nutrient trading around Rotorua is summed up nicely in this paper.

Nutrient trading for water quality of course has some interesting parallels with emissions trading for greenhouse gases. A similar Motu working paper on allocating units for the New Zealand ETS (Emissions Trading Scheme - covering greenhouse gases) can be found here, with Suzi Kerr's latest thinking on the contentious issue of allocation and fairness in the ETS is covered in this recent presentation by her.

It's all very interesting and contentious stuff - lots of material to look into! Luckily Dan Marsh's article gives a good summary of some of the issues which we are having to confront as we look seriously at farming within environmental limits.

Thanks to Dan Marsh for providing us with the article for this blog.

Friday, 19 October 2012

The New Zealand Farming Story: Tackling Agricultural Emissions

Today we are very excited to release our new short film on New Zealand’s agricultural emissions. Although the topic may sound dry (though hopefully not too dry if you visit this blog!) our filmmaker Jess Feast has done an excellent job of making an engaging film on an extremely important topic for the future of our country, our planet, our people and our stomachs. (She also made our films about improving the water quality in Lake Rotorua).

The film covers a wide range of topics, and many of the ideas in it come directly from what we learnt through the AgDialogue process. Importantly, we cover how we might be able to achieve some real reductions in New Zealand’s agricultural GHGs (greenhouse gases). You will get to meet some of the participants and experts from AgDialogue, including two of our star farmers, Mike and Megan.

The film speaks for itself, so you are better off watching it than reading about it. But before you do that, I’d just like to acknowledge all the hard work that went into making the film. To all those in the AgDialogue who gave their time and those who have done related research in the past few years, this film is dedicated to you and the hard work you have done.  Also thank you to our filmmaker Jess and the Ministry for Primary Industries for its support. The work will pay off in creating a more sustainable and prosperous future for us and future generations.

Oh, and if you like the film, please share it far and wide. New Zealand is uniquely placed to be able to make a big difference to levels of agricultural GHGs (greenhouse gases) around the world. And everyone in this country can make a difference.

UPDATE: Teaching materials to accompany the film have now also been released. These can be found here.