About Time the Government Learned the Word Sequestration
A New Zealand international soil scientist wants to reintroduce the word sequestration into our lexicon.
Dr John Baker says it’s so important, it should be part of our everyday conversation. It’s a building block of our
survival yet the coalition government has ignored it in all their efforts to address climate change.
“Just as liquefaction became a recognised word following the Christchurch earthquakes, so too should sequestration be
discussed when talking about the climatic future of New Zealand,” he says.
Dr Baker explains that sequestration is nature’s way of capturing CO2 that’s already in the atmosphere and putting it
back in the soil. Sequestration is the life blood of plants. Recycling carbon is fundamental to life on earth he says.
“All living things contain carbon and sequestration is the process where green plants receive CO2 as they grow into
crops and vegetables that we eat,” he explains.
Dr Baker says a healthy environment is where sequestration balances emissions, where the same amount of carbon is going
into the soil as is being released. Yet, with reference to government policy, he says the coalition ignores any
sequestration of carbon by farmers in favour of trying to tax them for emissions.
“We know that agricultural emissions are offset by sequestration because the carbon level in most ‘tractorable’ pastoral
soils has not changed in 15 years. That means the same amount of carbon is getting back into the soil as leaving it
through emissions,” he comments.
“Carbon-in is being offset by carbon-out. Therefore, if there’s no change, what right has the government got to tax only
one side of the equation.
“To only tax one side of the carbon cycle defies natural justice.”
Dr Baker strongly argues that, if such a tax is introduced, the government must allow sequestered carbon to be deducted
from emitted carbon. In other words, credit given to farmers for carbon they sequester each year, balanced against what
“They should tax the difference in the same way they tax the net profit from a company rather than the gross revenue,”
“The government has conveniently forgotten that agriculture occupies about half of New Zealand’s land area and most of
it has green plants such as pasture, crops, scrub and trees, growing on it most of the year round.”
When they’re willing to confront the word sequestration, they should take it another step further and consider how it
can be enhanced he says.
In the majority of cropping countries, carbon-out is greater than carbon-in and Dr Baker predicts there’ll be widespread
hunger by 2050 if it’s not reversed because the world will be unable to feed a 50 percent increase in its population.
“Eighty-five percent of the world’s food comes from arable soil which is being destroyed. The challenge of feeding the
world is even greater than climate change, something that society fails
to recognise,” Dr Baker says.
Yet he says the answer exists in New Zealand and its technology. About 20 percent of carbon emissions are caused, not by
animals, but traditional cultivation which opens up the soil and releases CO2 into the atmosphere.
However state-of-the-art technology invented in New Zealand has addressed the problem and its impact on climate change.
The solution is low disturbance, no tillage which is akin to keyhole surgery as opposed to ploughing which is invasive
surgery. The case was presented to the arable section of Federated Farmers in August for discussion.
In the meantime, Dr Baker hopes New Zealand will use the word sequestration enough times that it infiltrates Parliament
Building and can’t be ignored.