The greenhouse gas emissions produced for every kilogram of milk solids have fallen by almost a third in the 25 years to 2015, DairyNZ says.At a climate change workshop in Taranaki on Thursday, DairyNZ senior climate change advisor Milena Scott said New Zealand’s dairy industry had been increasing its emissions efficiency by an average of one per cent per year since 1990.
Data from the Ministry for the Environment showed that from 1990 to 2015, the emissions intensity of milk solids fell 29 per cent, Scott said.
“Some of that is due to animals becoming better at producing with less feed but a lot of it is down to improving farm management practices,” she said.
“New Zealand is already among the most emissions efficient producers of milk. Others are as good as us but we’re well ahead of many developing countries.”
Although total emissions from agriculture rose 12 per cent in the same period, the increase could have been much steeper, Scott said.
“We would have had an emissions increase of closer to 40 per cent instead of 12 if not for these improvements.”
The workshop was one of eight on a nationwide roadshow and was a commitment under the Dairy Action for Climate Change, an 18-month plan created in partnership with Fonterra and supported by the Ministry for Primary Industries and Ministry for the Environment.
The plan aimed to build awareness of the science behind climate change in the dairy sector, and the first step was education, Scott said.
“Farmers need to have a good understanding of climate change in order to recognise why they need to address their emissions alongside other New Zealand businesses and households.”
“We want farmers to come out of these workshops understanding how their farm contributes to New Zealand’s greenhouse gas profile, and how specific environmental initiatives can improve their farm’s broader environmental footprint.
“Farmers need to feel comfortable that adopting new environmental initiatives will help lead to farm businesses that are both profitable and sustainable.”
Taranaki Climate Change Ambassador Trish Rankin said farmers needed to be better prepared for changes coming their way, particularly in the current political context.
“The social license to farm is changing at a rapid rate and we need to continually look at how we can work in better ways with better outcomes for the environment,” she said.
Rankin and her husband, Glen, are 50-50 sharemilkers of 420 cows in South Taranaki for the region’s largest Fonterra supplier, Maori incorporation Parininihi Ki Waitotara.
The couple are in their second season in Taranaki, after moving from Northland where they won the regional Share Farmer of the Year title in 2016.
“These workshops aren’t an opportunity to debate climate change,they are an opportunity to understand climate change, and hear about what we can do to play our part,” Rankin said.
“The environmental work farmers up and down the country are doing right now is already helping to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but we want to stay proactive and engaged on this journey.”