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New Zealand’s centre-right government announced on Tuesday that it was abandoning a plan to put a price on greenhouse gas emissions from livestock farming, thereby abolishing a so-called burp tax.

A new bill will be presented to Parliament this month to exempt the agricultural sector from a new emissions pricing plan, it said.

“The government is committed to meeting our climate change commitments without closing New Zealand farms,” said Agriculture Minister Todd McClay.

“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 driven by agriculture, with around 10 million cattle and 25 million sheep grazing on the country’s pastures.

Almost half of New Zealand’s emissions come from agriculture, with cattle farming being the main cause.

Belching and flatulence in cattle release methane gas, while the urine of farm animals releases nitrous oxide into the atmosphere.

The previous centre-left Labour government had targeted livestock farming in its bid to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

But the plan announced by then Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern for 2022 to tax emissions from livestock farming sparked nationwide protests from farmers who feared a decline in their profits.

The new centre-right government, which came to power late last year, announced it would exempt agriculture, animal processing and fertiliser companies from the emissions pricing system, which is due to come into force in 2025.

The aim is to help farmers reduce their emissions through the use of technology without restricting production or exports, said the Agriculture Minister.

A new “pastoral group” will be set up to tackle biogenic methane emissions in the sector, he added.

The farmers welcomed the decision.

But environmental groups turned against the government, which also announced plans over the weekend to lift a five-year ban on new oil and gas exploration.

“Instead of pouring oil, coal and gas into the fire of the climate crisis, the government has now put half of our emissions, which come from agriculture, into the industry-led drawer of too harsh measures,” said Green Party co-leader Chloe Swarbrick.

Greenpeace accused the government of “waging a total war against nature”.

“In recent days, the coalition government has sent a clear signal that the most polluting industries, industrial dairying and oil and gas extraction, can treat our atmosphere like an open sewer,” said Greenpeace spokeswoman Niamh O’Flynn.

Over the weekend, thousands of people protested in New Zealand’s largest cities against the government’s new plans to circumvent some environmental protection regulations in major infrastructure projects.


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