- FAO Promotes Organic Agriculture
- Greenpeace NZ on Emissions Trading Scheme
- Green Party Analysis of ETS
FAO Promotes Organic Agriculture
The United Nations Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) have recently come out in favour of organic agriculture. Its report Organic Agriculture and Food Security explicitly states that organic agriculture can address local and global food security challenges. Organic farming is no longer to be considered a niche market within developed countries, but a vibrant commercial agricultural system practised in 120 countries, covering 31 million hectares (ha) of cultivated land plus 62 million ha of certified wild harvested areas.
The organic market was worth US$40 billion in 2006, and expected to reach US$70 billion by 2012. The FAO Report says organic farming fights hunger, tackles climate change, is good for farmers, consumers and the environment.
I interviewed Nadia Scialabba from the FAO about this report and the FAOs new found support for organics. Greenpeace NZ on Emissions Trading Scheme
Greenpeace NZ on Emissions Trading Scheme
The New Zealand (NZ) goverment came out with its proposals to deal with global warming recently and put forward an Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS). Greenpeace NZ welcomed the announcement of an emissions trading scheme intended to tackle climate change, but is alarmed that there are no targets set for reduction of our greenhouse gas emissions and thus no guarantee that emissions will actually reduce - the reason for the scheme in the first place. “Its bias towards the interests of polluters is a fundamental flaw, meaning windfall profits to their shareholders and big costs to the taxpayer and the climate,” says Greenpeace NZ climate campaigner Susannah Bailey.
I decided to interview Susannah Bailey to get an in-depth analysis of the pros and cons of the emissions trading scheme.
Green Party Analysis of ETS
The Green Party says that the government’s proposed Emissions Trading Scheme is well designed but will take years to have much effect on our greenhouse emissions, and meanwhile, world levels are skyrocketing to dangerous levels, Green Party Co-Leader Jeanette Fitzsimons says.
“There is no sense of urgency in this proposal. It is clever, and avoids a lot of fishhooks, but it does not reflect the sobering advice of climate scientists that we have just 10 years to put our emissions on a downward path to avoid dangerous levels of warming.”
I interviewed Jeanette to get a political analysis of the ETS and to find out what can be done to influence it through its current phase of consultation and at the select committee level.
Carbon Neutral - Reality or the Emperors New Clothes?
The Prime Minister Helen Clark gained a lot of attention over her proposal that New Zealand should become a carbon neutral nation. The reality has turned out, however, that this current government is not even committed to meeting its current Kyoto obligations by 2012, which will end up costing the nation hundreds of millions of dollars.
Labours proposed Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) may well be a step in the right direction, but it is still fundamentally flawed, particularly when there are no mandatory limits for anybody so there is no guarantee emissions will reduce at all. Then the question of who will check to find out if the big polluters are actually doing what they say they are doing when it comes to emission reductions. Which will mean a whole new layer of costly bureaucracy to monitor emissions and then to administer the trading of carbon credits will have to be put in place. Given the financial mis-management that has gone on in recent times with lending organisations and run of the mill business fraud such a system will be fraught with difficulties in trying to prove that any emissions have actually been reduced by anybody.
As it stands NZ will not even be able to achieve the global target of 50% less emissions by 2050 let alone be carbon neutral, while the politicians who are proposing this ETS will be long gone. And maybe that is part of the problem, because as these politicians (Labour & National) see it as their job to get themselves re-elected and not achieve environmental goals that will help human civilisation survive a global warming crisis some time in the future. As bad as the ETS is NZ is still a world leader in trying to deal with reducing greenhouse gas emissions through a legal framework like this. So when the scientists say we only have 10-20 years to stop irreversible and catastrophic climate change for our current civilisation then both the voters and politicians need to do a whole lot better than what they are currently doing.
I have three main solutions to offer as potential solutions. Firstly, I agree with the Greens that a carbon charge on fossil fuels would be the most efficient way of sending a signal to producers and consumers on the need to reduce their carbon footprints, for example, taxes on oil (petrol), coal and natural gas. These taxes can be changed to achieve the desired levels of greenhouse gas reductions. Any revenue that is collected from these taxes can be recycled back into the economy to help the poor and develop greater energy efficiency, for example, . A ban on the export of coal would also be a useful start.
Secondly, NZ agriculture needs to bite the bullet and go organic. As Nadia Scialabba of the FAO points out in her interview organics helps avoid global warming because it does not use fossil fuel nitrogen fertilisers and promotes putting more biomass in the soil (carbon sequestration) which helps retain water in the soil and thus the need for less irrigation (resulting in less need for energy). Overall, she estimates that organic farming results in 40-60% less greenhouse gas emissions compared to conventional agriculture. Jeanette Fitzsimons also raised the issue of putting plant carbon (e.g. compost) in the soil as a means of benefiting organic production and to help avoid global warming. Despite what the naysayers and gloom merchants might say about organics the simple scientific fact is that organics can feed the world.
When our export markets find out that our agriculture is allowed to go on polluting until 2013 then any talk of carbon neutrality will be just so much more hot air. As a nation we live and die by the export of agricultural produce and as consumers wake up to the reality of our farmers being part of the problem rather than the solution then we can only expect financial difficulties to follow. When will the farmers and politicians wake up to the fact that organics is a win-win solution for our climate, soils, water, production, and the hearts, minds and wallets of consumers.
Thirdly, I rather like the idea of David Strahan in his book the Last Oil Shock of every individual citizen and business having a carbon budget allowance. That is to say every individual and business is allocated a right to use a certain amount of GreenHouse Gases (GHG) (e.g. petrol, coal or gas) per year. These allowances could then be reduced in a rational and organised way on a yearly basis. This would also allow for the exchange of GHG credits between individuals and businesses to arrive at their most socially and economically efficient allocation. However, this would also have some of the problems pointed out in my first point. It would also be useful when oil goes into its post peak decline. In this way two crucial issues could be managed in a logical and rational way.
The Emperors New Clothes - Carbon Neutrality
Global warming, climate change, global weather weirding whatever you want to call it is real and it is happening and is only going to get much much worse with potentially catastrophic consequences. The hot air rhetoric of Labours carbon neutrality has already run out of puff and has been exposed as simply another chapter in the never ending story of the Emperors New Clothes. The proposed ETS is not the vehicle that will get us to where we need to go in reducing our greenhouse gases and actually achieving carbon neutrality. It may please the politicians of Labour & National, but really the parents of young children need to sit down and explain to their children now why their future is going to be so blighted from this generations selfish interests.
- Author Raj Patel on his new book “Stuffed & Starved - Markets, Power & the Hidden Battle for the World Food System.”
- Brian Halweil from the World Watch Institute on his report “Still No Free Lunch: Crops are getting less nutritious and farming methods are partly to blame.”
- David Carpenter on the Bioinitiative report about the risks from cell phones and electromagnetic fields.