Ardern’s legacy unravels as New Zealand scraps cow ‘burp tax’

Jacinda Ardern's 'burp tax' plans have been scrapped
Jacinda Ardern's 'burp tax' plans have been scrapped - Mark Mitchell/New Zealand Herald

New Zealand has scrapped a “burp tax” on cow emissions, dealing a blow to the legacy of the former Left-wing government.

The tax was originally proposed by Jacinda Ardern, the former prime minister, to temper the greenhouse gas emissions produced by the flatulence and burps of cows and sheep.

But it proved deeply unpopular among farmers, who felt unfairly targeted by Ms Ardern and her Labour Party.

The tax will be thrown out at the end of this month as new legislation is introduced to the parliament in Wellington.

“It doesn’t make sense to send jobs and production overseas, while less carbon-efficient countries produce the food the world needs,” said Todd McClay, the agriculture minister.

New Zealand’s economy is heavily reliant on agriculture and its 10 million cattle and 25 million sheep.

But the presence of so much livestock comes at a price, with nearly half of the country’s emissions produced by agriculture.

Methane-emitting cattle flatulence is the main problem, as well as livestock urine which leaks nitrous oxide into the atmosphere.

Sparked nationwide protests

Ms Ardern’s government had targeted livestock in its drive towards reaching net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

But the plan to tax livestock emissions sparked nationwide protests by farmers fearing it would hurt profits.

Under the plans unveiled by the government, which was elected late last year, agriculture, animal processors and fertiliser companies would be removed from the emissions pricing scheme, due to start in 2025.

Farmers will be encouraged to lower emissions through the use of technology without cutting production or exports, and a new “pastoral group” is to be set up to tackle biogenic methane  emissions, the agriculture minister explained.

Mr McClay said the move to scrap the tax would not change New Zealand’s climate change obligations, but environmental groups have reacted furiously to the news.

Greenpeace accused it of “waging an all-out war on nature”.

Niama O’Flynn, a Greenpeace spokesman, said: “In the last few days the coalition government has clearly signalled that the most polluting industries, industrial dairy, and new oil and gas exploration, are free to treat our atmosphere like an open sewer.”

Shane Jones, resources minister, said the announcement on Sunday to reverse a ban on oil and gas exploration was made in response to declining natural gas reserves and the inconsistency of sustainable sources such as solar, wind and hydro.