The Government of New Zealand has disclosed a plan to collect a tax on cow and sheep burps from livestock production which would become the first in the world to make producers pay for their animals' emissions.
New Zealand has a population of 5 million humans, 10 million cows, and 26 million sheep. Hence, livestock breeding is to account for half of New Zealand's greenhouse gas emissions. Other reports mention that over 80% of methane emissions in New Zealand come from animal stomachs. Either way.
“There is no question that we need to cut the amount of methane we are putting into the atmosphere, and an effective emissions pricing system for agriculture will play a key part in how we achieve that,” Climate Change Minister James Shaw was quoted as saying.
The bill proposes the tax should become effective by 2025. The plan also includes incentives for those who reduce emissions with additives and use tree planting as an offset for greenhouse gas production.
An adult cow can produce up to 500 liters of methane gas per day. There are more than 1.5 billion cattle in the world and, according to the IPCC, the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, their burps accounted for 3.7% of all greenhouse gas emissions on the planet in 2015.
When animals burp, they release methane. And the plan has been put into place to tackle this source of greenhouse gases, one of the country’s biggest. Methane has more than 80 times the warming power of carbon dioxide during its first 20 years in the atmosphere. Over a 100-year period, it is 28 to 34 times as warming as CO2.
More than 85% of New Zealand’s total methane emissions come from animal stomachs and manure. In cows, 95% of the methane is exhaled, while 5% is emitted via flatulence, it was also reported. In 2019, methane in the atmosphere reached record levels, around two-and-a-half times above what they were in the pre-industrial era, according to a BBC report.
The tax collected will be put into research and development which will benefit farmers, New Zealand authorities have said.
New Zealand has vowed to reach the net-zero target by 2050 and this plan to tax livestock belches is part of a bigger initiative. The country has a roadmap for the energy, transport, waste, and job sectors which begin in 2025 to fight climate change.