Greenhouse gases from livestock: New Zealand wants to tax cow farmers

Status: 10/11/2022 13:28 hrs

From 2025, a tax will be levied in New Zealand on climate-damaging flatulence and burping of cows. Livestock emissions are among the country’s biggest environmental problems. Criticism comes from the agricultural sector.

The New Zealand government wants to tax greenhouse gas emissions from livestock. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has announced that a tax on flatulence and burping of cows will be introduced from 2025. All proceeds should be returned to farmers through research, financing of new technologies and tax incentives. Livestock emissions are among the country’s biggest environmental problems.

With the proposal as it is, New Zealand’s agricultural industry will become the first in the world to reduce its agricultural emissions, Ardern said, and gain competitive advantages in an increasingly climate-sensitive market.

“No other country in the world has developed a system for pricing and reducing agricultural emissions to date, so our farmers will benefit from being at the forefront,” the prime minister said. “By reducing emissions, New Zealand farmers will not only be the best in the world, but also the best for the world.”

Agriculture is an important industry in New Zealand

The amount of the planned tax has not yet been determined. Ardern’s project echoes a previous government’s plans in 2003 to tax methane gas emitted by livestock during digestion, which is far more damaging to the climate than carbon dioxide. The then-failed plans were ridiculed as a “fart tax,” which is misleading, however, as most of the methane is emitted by cows when they burp.

Again, criticism comes from the agricultural sector. According to the Beef + Lamb New Zealand Association, which represents the country’s sheep and beef farmers, the plan does not take into account existing measures to combat greenhouse gases. “New Zealand farmers have more than 1.4 million hectares of native forest on their land that absorbs carbon,” said chairman Andrew Morrison. “It’s only fair that every framework takes this into account appropriately from the start.”

Agriculture is one of New Zealand’s main industries – the sector employs five million people, ten million cattle and 26 million sheep. Dairy products provide the largest export revenues.

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