Our greenhouse gas emissions per head of population are about 6 tonnes per person and this is roughly the same as Europe and China while Australia is about 18 tonnes and the USA at about 22 tonnes while India is down at 2 tonnes. Most developed nations are falling as they convert from coal to gas, solar and wind power for electricity generation, while the poorer nations are increasing as they industrialise.
New Zealand has a very large dairy and cattle industry compared with other countries at around 10 million head of cattle this amounts to 2 head of cattle per person. The UK for instance has around 5 million beasts against 66 million people or 0.08 head per person. If the UK had the same proportion as New Zealand, they would have 122 million head of cattle, but the UK ratio is similar to the rest of Northern Europe. New Zealand is clearly in a league of its own.
The problem for us is the way that we account for the emissions, in that the cows emit here and we have to account for this, even though we export 95% of the milk product. Australia on the other hand exported 380 million tonnes of coal which, when burnt, will make 800 million tonnes of CO2 at 32 tonnes per Australian, and they do not count this against their, already bad figures.
Our dairy and meat produce are all paddock grass fed and of the highest quality and when we export this, we give the recipient country a huge help in their trading emissions account. China for instance is the manufacturing workshop of the world and they have a huge emissions tonnage as they industrialise. We import finished goods from China and do not account for the emissions that they made in the manufacturing and so we should accept the ‘give and take’ in the balance of emissions and manufacturing. We get their manufactured goods emission free and they get our dairy products emissions free.
In my view, we should give the farmers a free pass on the emissions and concentrate on helping them with fencing, to keep cattle out of the streams, and in the longer term move away from cattle farming altogether and concentrate on using our fertile land for more intensive and productive arable and horticultural farming.
We also need to remind ourselves that only about half of the houses in New Zealand are connected to a sewage system and so we need to address that problem if we want to pump drinking water from the aquifers and from our rivers.