New Zealand Backtracks on Livestock Methane Tax, Prioritizes Agriculture

In a significant policy reversal, New Zealand’s centre-right government has scrapped a proposed scheme to price greenhouse gas emissions from livestock, commonly known as a “burp tax.”

The government announced it would introduce legislation this month to exempt the agriculture sector from its emissions pricing plan. The decision marks a departure from the previous centre-left Labour government’s target of achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, which included taxing livestock emissions.

Agriculture forms the backbone of New Zealand’s economy, with cattle and sheep comprising a substantial portion of its livestock population. The sector contributes nearly half of the country’s emissions, primarily through methane from cattle and nitrous oxide from livestock urine.

The centre-right government, which took office late last year, emphasized its commitment to meeting climate change obligations without jeopardizing Kiwi farms. Agriculture Minister Todd McClay stated that exporting jobs and production overseas while other countries with less efficient carbon practices produce the world’s food does not make sense.

The government plans to support farmers in reducing emissions through technological advancements, rather than production cuts or export restrictions. A new “pastoral group” will be established to address biogenic methane emissions in the sector.

Farmers welcomed the decision, while environmental groups criticized the government’s backtracking. Greenpeace accused the government of “waging an all-out war on nature,” highlighting its simultaneous plans to lift a five-year ban on new oil and gas exploration.

The government’s decision has sparked protests in major cities, with demonstrators calling on the government to prioritize climate action over industry interests. Thousands of people have taken to the streets to express their disapproval of the new government’s environmental policies, which they believe favor polluting industries and weaken environmental protections.

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