A Mission James Shaw Could Win.

Published: Tue 5 Oct 2021 12:15 PM
If Minister James Shaw wanted to chalk up a win at Glasgow he could take strong leadership sorting out the chaos around the accounting processes for ruminant methane. The ball is in his court. He could stand firm for scientific integrity and justice, or he continues to take the easy option of playing politics to appease noisy, green extremists.
Glasgow is about hardening up targets for emission reductions including methane. If it is not being measured accurately and not on the basis of sound science how can targets be set that have integrity and that will stand over time. It is cart before the horse.
Methane has become the ‘fall guy’, the whipping boy for misguided greenies and frustrated politicians who cannot find a way to get CO2 emissions reduced. Methane is an easy target and farmers are a voting minority with little leverage. Even the Climate Commission was happy to have ruminant methane emitters subsidise CO2 emitters because it was expedient.
James Shaw needs to represent all New Zealanders and the good of the nation not just his party and green interests. Right now our economy needs all the help it can get trying to survive Covid. It makes no sense cutting livestock production by 15% any time, let alone when debt is ballooning and jobs are in jeopardy.
There is neither a future nor justice in any climate policies or targets that are based on a carbon accounting system that is so flawed and massively overstates the impact of methane emissions from livestock. The system fails to take into account the cyclical nature of these emissions.
Thirty five percent of New Zealand’s carbon emissions are sourced from ruminant methane. Because methane is cyclical and ruminant emissions are declining they are at net zero already. Each emission is matched by a removal and they do not contribute to any increase in atmospheric methane, yet the current carbon accounting system does not recognize this scientific reality. Farmers are contributing to the cooling of the planet – they deserve recognition.
James Shaw must take the lead by urging all countries to fix the mistakes they made decades ago when politicians ignored the science. New Zealand has friends around the world like Ireland, Chile and others caught in the ‘ruminant methane is a major problem and we can get quick runs on the board by hitting it early’ syndrome pushed by CO2 emitters. New Zealand has a unique opportunity to take up the challenge of uniting these voices for reason, common sense and sensible science. That role led by Minister Shaw would have real credibility. It would be a triumph of science over politics, facts over optics, truth over ideology.
Fixing the methane mess is more timely than ever with industrial nations pushing for action on methane as they get increasingly desperate unable and unwilling to reduce CO2.
The truth is the accounting system for ruminant methane is flawed and is not just, not a credible basis for taxing farmers nor for setting harsh international reduction targets.
The current CO2 benchmark for methane is broken. It is not just an apples and oranges comparison – it is apples and onions. The IPCC recognises it is not relevant any longer when ruminant methane emissions are stable or falling as they are in New Zealand. Shaw needs to take the initiative and push for scientific credibility.
James Shaw could resolve the uncertainty and the injustice by the stroke of a pen before he sets out for Glasgow and show farmers he is a leader with integrity and not just a boot licker for extreme green groups.

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