The ETS and Strings theory

Hi Strings, you raised some really interesting questions in the comment section of this ETS post and I’m sorry I haven’t had time to answer them till now:

We can’t “leave agriculture out of Kyoto” – it is already in, for all countries, and all countries have liabilities that include all their emissions above their 1990 related baseline. The argument is about whether we leave it out of our carbon pricing system, in which case NZ would still face the full liability for all our emissions but the farming sector would pay nothing towards that liability, so everyone else would have to pay twice as much, because agricultural methane and nitrous oxide is half the total.

Even if you leave out farming, our carbon dioxide emissions per head of population are very high – well above the global average – partly because our transport system is quite inefficient and we have long distances as well.

No, I’m not advocating genetic engineering – that is quite unnecessary. Once we understand which genes in cows reduce their generation of methane we can test a blood sample of calves for that gene and selectively breed, just as we do now, for example, to identify rams resistant to facial excema. Genetics is a very valuable science if you keep it in the lab and use it for diagnostic purposes.

Re stocking rates, it’s not as simple as you’d think. High stocking rates give you less production per cow. Lower stocking rates can often be more profitable for the farmer as input costs are much lower and stock health better. It doesn’t help our trade balance to have to import heaps of palm oil kernel for winter feed (apart from the fact that it’s grown by clearing rainforest) or veterinary medicines for overcrowded cows.

My comment that many things farmers could do that would reduce emissions don’t count under Kyoto is not evidence that the whole trading thing is a sham – it’s because measuring the effects of many better farm practices is incredibly difficult and Kyoto only credits what you can measure and verify. Our interest lies in advancing this science so that the practices we want credit for are measurable and verifiable and then get them accepted under Kyoto.

18 thoughts on “The ETS and Strings theory

  1. How odd, Frog is advocating something almost identical to what antivivisectionists in palmy were so angry about for quite a while.
    A PhD student up at massey was breeding beagles. Beagles carry a recessive mutation which leads to massive suffering for the animal when it develops. The student was attempting to breed the mutation out of the dogs, castrating the carriers and putting down the ones that would suffer due to double expression. The anti-vivisectionists kept raiding and stealing the dogs. I fail to see what is wrong about this ‘genetic engineering’. lol, the animal studies areas at massey are not marked for fear of anti-vivisectionist idiocracy.

    Also; I fail to see where, on that thread, strings made that point. However, I did in a reply to strings http://blog.greens.org.nz/2009/05/06/farming-and-the-ets-–-the-latest-from-the-select-committee/#comment-76646

  2. Hey, it’s actually not frog’s post it’s Jeanette’s.

    I see nothing wrong with castrating animals to prevent them from passing on an undesirable genetic trait. That’s just part of selective breeding. I do agree with the anti-vivisectionists, however, in that animals should be put down only if they actually are suffering, not just because they have the genetic potential to suffer at some future time.

  3. Toad,
    Yes, i should have noticed that :P .
    I should also of been more clear; while i only have a very limited understanding of the disease, from what little i do understand it sounds as if they suffer from birth but the more they age, the worse it gets.

  4. they suffer from birth but the more they age, the worse it gets.
    That’s a very Buddhist view Sapient. Not just for beagles, but for humans too.

  5. Greenfly,
    Well I did explore most major and moderate religions and many philosophies for wisdom :P ; of religions buddhism was prehaps the one where I found the most. Suffice to say that if I was able to fool myself sufficently that I could follow and beleive in a religion then budhism would be my choice; though not the tibetan version. evil budhism.

  6. Jeanette says “… in which case NZ would still face the full liability for all our emissions but the farming sector would pay nothing towards that liability, so everyone else would have to pay twice as much, because agricultural methane and nitrous oxide is half the total.”

    Also:
    1) As the dairy generator doesn’t pay then they aren’t encouraged to reduce their use of the “GHG” sink.
    2) As overseas dairy consumers & generators “wise-up” they will pressure their governments to raise tariffs against NZ products. (Heard of “food-miles”?) Those governments will keep this windfall to boost their coffers.

    Result? NZ further pillages its environment to try and stay in a dead-end commodity market.

    An alternative? Target tax the generator and put those monies into R&D to reduce the environmental impact and to increase the dairy product value.

  7. Target tax the generator and put those monies into R&D to reduce the environmental impact and to increase the dairy product value.

    …or encourage the farmer to seek out other high value but lower carbon crops.

  8. Jeanette

    Firstly, THANK YOU for responding so comprehensively. I now have a better understanding of the situation.

    I also apologise for not commenting earlier, I have to confess that having a wife born in Sri Lanka, as well as quite a large extended family over there, Ive been rather focused on that country’s news of recent days.

    I still have some areas of puzzlement regarding the way the Kyoto topic is reported and discussed.

    Firstly there is an often repeated comment that we (NZ) are the only country to include farmin in our Kyoto calculations. IS this a falsehood, or is there something strange in the way we are approaching our responsibilities that is radically different to the rest of the signatories.

    Secondly, I wonder at the party’s definition of “Genetic Engineering”. To me, selective breeding to eliminate or reinforce a specific gene is genetic engineering; every bit as much as if the gene was removed in a single generation through laboratory procedures.

    Finally. If we (and others) have to measure the carbon generated by farming, how are we to actually do that and can we measure the impact of any carbon eradication measures that are taken to any reasonable degree of accuracy? Allocating an ‘average’ per beast (by specie) might be acceptable on a national basis, but if an individual farmer were to invest in carbon reduction technology, how would they benefit. Alternatively, if we can’t measure (again with some degree of accuracy and reasonability of cost) the carbon output of a specific farm, how can we ‘invoice’ farmers their true cost accurately?

  9. Strings,
    I would be inclined to do a comprehensive assessment of the different land types in NZ, the effective CO2 emmisions of those terains when farmed to varieing exstents, and the effects on those terrains of various fertilisors and inhibitors. Then, for example in dairy, fonterra would be responsible for monitoring farming practices and would report the average density on the average type of land and the average rate of fertilisor or inhibitor use, this would make it easy to calculat for the government and would encourage fonterra, etc to charge the farmers based on the farming methods they use as different methods make result in different charges to fonterra since fonterra would be the one incurring the carbon debt, provided correct auditing. Or something along those lines anyhow.

  10. Sapient
    I see where you are coming from, but Farmers don’t invest on an average basis, they do it individually. This means that for a farmer to invest in a new approach to animal husbandry they would have to see a direct return on that investment, not one that affects the ‘averages’.

    To my mind this is the crux of this matter.

  11. Strings,
    Well, in addition to the return on using less fertilizer, more nitrogen fixation, and nitrogen inhibitors, etc, the farmers will experiance a dirrect return on their investment because since fonterra is incurring the debt on their behalf fonterra should logically act to encourage the usage of practices which reduce that debt. For example they may charge farmers carbon levies on the milk and milk solids that they produce with farmers using better practices being charged less due to their lesser contribution to the bill; since it is fonterra that takes the data, not only does it make them account for their own costs in carbon emmisions and decrease overall buerocracy, but it means they have all the data they need for such a charging system. This would also go part of the way to disencouraging dairy on marginal lands. Though, given fonterra is a co-op, there wil likely be some degree of subsidisation.

  12. For example they may charge farmers carbon levies on the milk and milk solids that they produce with farmers using better practices being charged less due to their lesser contribution to the bill;

    How would their (the farmer’s) actions be verified? AND how would the overall carbon reduction be certified?

    I still have this hang-up about measurement I’m afraid.

  13. Strings,
    Yes, the measurement is a problem.
    I think the best method for working this out may be feild trials. We could, say, contract Massey Turitea’s ag research department to run feild trials with different terrains, different inhibition measures, different stockings, different fertilizers, etc. It would cost a fair bit but from this we could work out the approximate emmisions from any area of farm land in NZ under different conditions, using the information on terrain and activities we could measure how much fonterra would have to pay. To ensure that fonterras stats are not misreported we would have to allow random, no warning, auditing of major producers and fine those whom missreport practices as a proportion of net and gross incomes and fine fonterra even more. This will encourage farmers to be honest and the costs will outweight the benefits and the same for fonterra. How fonterra choses to distribute the cost would be up to them.
    Atleast, this is the first practicable solution that comes to mind, there are others but they are decisivly less economic or more open to couruption or misreporting.

  14. I’m still confuse. If you can charge farmers because of they produce carbon, what are you gonna do with the money that you collect from them? Can you make this world cooler with it? can you change their carbon into O2 or O3?

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