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Animal gas emission difficult to measure - article

Posted by GoatWorld on October 17, 2001 at 18:43:33:

Hi folks,

This one is a bit off the wall. I had heard of something like this once before but never really paid much attention to it.

Animal gas emissions difficult to measure

Methane producer . . . Methane from agriculture accounts for 48.5% of New Zealand's greenhouse gas production but critics are asking if Government attempts to curb global warming have a political motive.

By Neal Wallace
How do you measure the amount of methane sheep, cattle, deer or goats create by belching or passing wind?

That is one of an exhaustive list of questions critics of the Government's intention to sign up to the Kyoto Protocol on climate change say need answering before pen is put to paper.

It has been claimed meeting the protocol's requirements could cost the country millions of dollars and no costings had been done, but the Government was committed to being one of the treaty's first signatories at next year's Rio Earth Summit in Brazil.

Industry sources and political opponents, such as National Party environmental spokesman Nick Smith, claim the Government is using the issue to win the support of environmentalists ahead of next year's general election.

In a recent issues paper, the independent Taxation Review Committee provides some insight into how the Government could use carbon tax and credits to reduce greenhouse gas producing emissions and meet its Kyoto obligations.

The 1997 agreement commits 39 countries plus the European Union to take steps to constrain greenhouse gas emission.

New Zealand, which produces 0.2% of international greenhouse gases, will be limited to net 1990 emission levels while the United States, the world's biggest greenhouse gas producer, has not signed and developing countries in Asia and South America are not parties.

Methane from ruminant animals is responsible for 48.5% of New Zealand greenhouse gas, with nitrous oxide contributing 15.9% and carbon dioxide 35%. Gross emissions are estimated at 9% above levels allowed by Kyoto.

The taxation review, which is not Government policy, suggests a carbon tax could target the burning of fossil fuels, cement and steel industries and methane from farm livestock on a proxy basis, rather than based on the emission source.

Based on a speculated international carbon price of $50 a tonne, the review calculates New Zealand's annual allowable gross emissions as worth $990 million a year.

But our production of greenhouse gases based on that formula is worth $1.1 million a year, meaning the Government or industry would have to buy extra credits on the international market or reduce emissions.

But as forests are planted New Zealand's emissions are expected to be 75% of target levels in 2010.

At current emission levels a charge on carbon dioxide would be worth about $480 million a year while a tax would be levied against farm livestock.

The tax would cover 88% of New Zealand's methane emissions and would be worth about $440 million.

Calculating nitrous oxide levels is difficult, as they are related to livestock numbers, the use of nitrogenous fertilisers, soil type, rainfall and temperature.

"Whether a reliable link to practicable tax bases can be found will depend on the methodology adopted by the national reports system," the review found.

On the other hand, owners of forests planted since 1990 will be allocated carbon credits, worth about $360 million a year, because young, maturing forests absorb carbon dioxide. These credits can be traded internationally to businesses wanting to emit more greenhouse gas, but are dependent on the forests being replanted.

The tax review committee placed a caveat on any eco-tax. -

The environmental damage of each unit of emission was the same across the geographic area to which it applies.

The volume of emissions is measurable.

The marginal net damage of emissions is measurable.
The committee also warned: "It would be desirable for meaningful debate over the feasibility, fair and efficient coverage of a national carbon charge, consistent with the Government's Kyoto commitments, to begin immediately."

Wednesday, 17-October 2001

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