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In a major policy shift, New Zealand’s centre-right government has announced that it is abandoning a system for pricing greenhouse gas emissions from livestock farming, effectively putting the so-called “burp tax” on hold.

The government said a new bill would be introduced to parliament this month to exempt the agricultural sector from a proposed carbon pricing plan. “The government is committed to meeting our climate change commitments without closing kiwifruit farms,” ​​Agriculture Minister Todd McClay said. AFP“It makes no sense to move jobs and manufacturing overseas while less carbon-efficient countries produce the food the world needs.”

New Zealand’s economy is heavily dependent on agriculture, with around 10 million cattle and 25 million sheep grazing on the country’s pastures. Almost half of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions come from the agricultural sector, mainly from cattle burping and flatulence, as well as from the animals’ urine.

The previous centre-left Labour government under Jacinda Ardern had targeted the livestock industry to achieve net zero emissions by 2050. The plan announced for 2022 to tax emissions from the livestock industry, sparked widespread protests by farmers who feared that their livelihoods were at risk.

The new centre-right government, which took power late last year, announced it would exempt agriculture, animal processing and fertiliser companies from the emissions pricing system due to be introduced in 2025. Instead, the government wants to help farmers cut their emissions through technology without reducing their production or exports.

“A new ‘pastoral group’ will be set up to tackle biogenic methane emissions in this sector,” added the Agriculture Minister.

The decision is welcomed by farmers but criticized by environmental groups. AFP reported that Green Party co-leader Chloe Swarbrick accused the government of “putting half of our emissions, which come from agriculture, into the ‘too harsh’ category cited by industry”.

also read | Believe it or not, New Zealand announces plans to tax sheep and cow burps

Greenpeace went even further, claiming that the government was waging “all-out war on nature” and had “sent a clear signal that the most polluting industries, industrial dairying and oil and gas extraction, can treat our atmosphere like an open sewer.”

The abolition of the “burp tax” came at the same time as the government announced that it would lift a five-year ban on new oil and gas exploration. Thousands of people protested in New Zealand’s major cities against the withdrawal of environmental protection regulations.

(With contributions from AFP)

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