Meeting the Challenge of Climate Change

25 Oct 2019 Meeting the Challenge of Climate Change image

The Government has just announced an agreement with the primary sector for that sector and not the Government to take the initiative to make climate change adaptations.

This is a significant shift away from the normal regulatory model where the Government – through Regional and District Councils – imposes rules to achieve environmental and other targets. 

The Government’s latest decision recognises that the owners and users of land are best placed to take responsibility and make the changes necessary.  This is without doubt a very mature and sensible approach, with the important advantage that it is the approach most likely to achieve the best environmental and climate adaptation outcomes.  The approach recognises that it is best to work in partnership with farmers and growers, building on their intergenerational sustainability of the environment.

For horticulture, water quality and climate change adaptation go hand in hand with each other.  The way both can be addressed is through independently audited Farm Environment Plans that are based on good management practices.  These plans permit the grower to make an assessment of the water quality and climate risks that their property face  To rank those risks in priority order and then to work out the best way in which to address the highest risks on the basis that it takes time to make meaningful long term improvements.

Balance has to be achieved while the necessary changes are made because we still need to be able to grow healthy food.  The Paris Agreement recognises the importance of growing food alongside climate change goals.  When this is applied at orchard and vegetable garden level, allowances need to be made to ensure that healthy food continues to be grown while making water and climate change improvements. 

Making these improvements will cost a lot of money.  Keeping all our urban and rural businesses profitable is vital if we are to meet the environmental and climate change challenges.  An out of business operation leaves vacant land and any improvement work at best on hold.  At worst, there could be environmental degradation.  We need to strenuously avoid farmers and growers walking off the land because they have no way to continue farming or growing, making enough money to feed their families and sustain their business.

When it comes to setting targets and goals, the key is to make them realistic and progress attainable in the short term.  We need implementation programmes that are simple and straightforward.  We also need to empower farmers and growers to make the necessary changes. 

The first step is undertaking research to define the issue and to then work out how it can be practicably addressed.  That research then needs to be turned into what farmers and growers can adopt, and be incorporated into their Farm Environment Plan. 

What needs to be avoided is specifying what farmers and growers must do to address their risks, as each property has different risks depending on what is being grown and different ways in which to make improvements. 

The primary sector is now in partnership with the Government to achieve climate change adaptation.  In my view, this will see very positive and tangible improvements as the rural sector meets the challenges of climate change.  I urge the Government to consider using this model for other programmes such as water quality.  Climate change adaptation and water quality improvements are interlinked and the expansion of the partnership to include water quality will only produce better results.  The key and vital ingredient here is independently audited Farm Environment Plan.

Mike Chapman, Chief Executive