'There’s no scientific solution to selfishness' - tensions rise over meeting climate targets

Mike Smith is doubtful that science will provide a solution to the size of, and emissions from, New Zealand’s sheep and cows as the country tries to tackle climate change.

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Mike Smith of the Iwi Chairs Forum and Dairy NZ's Tim Mackle talked emissions during a Q+A special. Source: Q+A

The Iwi Chairs Forum’s climate spokesperson told Q+A during a special on Climate Change that he had "heard the arguments that science might find a solution, but … there is no scientific solution to selfishness and greed.

"The selfishness in the aspect that 12,000 farmers expect to have special treatment in a country of five million people. And greed in the sense that you can continue to produce dairy products for an elite market in Europe and other places and that’s an adequate way of using our lands.”

On Monday the Climate Change Commission will give the government its final recommendations on how the country might meet its commitments to reducing emissions in Aotearoa.

Tim Mackle, who has led Dairy NZ for 16 years, says the dairy sector understands it needs to contribute to combating climate change, especially as agriculture is such a big contributor 48% to greenhouse gas emissions.

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“The ultimate job to be done is not to reduce cows here, it’s actually to reduce emissions, in fact it’s actually to reduce warming … we’re the most efficient producers of dairy in the world in terms of the amount of carbon emitted and warming impact per unit of food produced, same goes for meat, we’re pretty good at this."

“And I don’t think it’s about greed at all, its about doing the best for their families, that’s actually how they have been thinking about this.”

He says New Zealand is a “world leader” in trying to address the impact of farming on climate and is “the only country I know of that is deliberately focussing on agriculture.”

But, Mike Smith says that focus is too narrow: “We all want to do the best for our families, and our families yet to come. We’re talking about the future, not the present. Not maintaining the status quo, we’re talking about ensuring that we’ve got a secure future for our families … not just farmers’ families, all our families."