Sheep and beef farmers in New Zealand are close to being carbon neutral, independent research has revealed.
Led by Dr Bradley Case at Auckland University of Technology (AUT), the study estimated woody vegetation (1.52 million hectares of native forest and 0.48m ha of exotic vegetation) has offset 63-118 per cent of New Zealand’s beef and sheep on-farm agricultural emissions.
It also found absolute greenhouse gas emissions from beef and sheep production had reduced by 30 per cent since 1990.
Sam McIvor, Beef and Lamb New Zealand chief executive officer, said the findings reinforced the importance of formally recognising farmers for the sequestration happening on their farms.
“Currently, most vegetation on sheep and beef farms does not qualify for inclusion in the Emissions Trading Scheme because it does not meet the definition of a forest,” he said.
“If farmers are to face a price for agricultural emissions, it is only fair they get credit for their sequestration.
“The focus to date on livestock’s climate change contribution has been on emissions, rather than on sequestration.
“But with any product it makes sense to consider the whole business – in this case, taking a whole farm approach.”
AHDB’s head of environment, Dr Jonathon Foot, said the report was a welcome addition to the limited evidence on carbon sequestration on grazing landscapes, but added there were significant differences between the UK and NZ, with UK-specific data still vital for demonstrating the role of grazing lands in the industry’s pursuit of Net Zero by 2040.
“Current UK studies, although limited, show there is significant opportunity to increase carbon stocks, particularly in areas with low carbon stocks,” Dr Foot added.
“Proving livestock and manures have an important role in improving carbon sequestration across our entire agricultural system.
"Across industry, with the involvement of scientists and farmers, research is underway to better understand the options available for enhancing and preserving regional specific carbon stocks in the UK.”
To help farmers drive sustainability through Agritech in the UK, Barclays has launched £250 million of financial support.
A recent survey by the bank found 70 per cent of farmers thought Agritech could help their business to become more sustainable and efficient, with nearly two-thirds saying it would enable them to produce more food.
The survey also found 80 per cent of farmers believed they would be carbon neutral by 2035 and 69 per cent thought becoming greener would increase their farm’s competitiveness after the UK left the EU, indicating Brexit could accelerate their transition to becoming carbon neutral.