Agriculture & the Emissions Trading Scheme

The Government has announced decisions on the ETS. More details are available at The Government has changed the regulations that define how emissions are calculated for agriculture in the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS). More details are available at Recent changes to the regulations for agriculture in the ETS.

Overview of the Emissions Trading Scheme

The New Zealand Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) is a way of meeting our international obligations around climate change. The ETS puts a price on greenhouse gases to provide an incentive to reduce emissions.

Agricultural emissions

Agriculture is a source of methane and nitrous oxide, which account for nearly half of New Zealand's greenhouse gas emissions. Methane emissions come from ruminant animals and animal waste. Nitrous oxide emissions come from urine, dung and nitrogen fertiliser.

Mandatory reporting of emissions from 2012

Agricultural processors are the participants for agriculture in the ETS and must report agricultural emissions on an annual basis from 1 January 2012. The Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) administers the ETS for agriculture.

Participants include meat processors, dairy processors, nitrogen fertiliser manufacturers and importers, and live animal exporters, although some exemptions apply.

Agricultural emissions are calculated using emissions factors in the ETS. Emission factors are prescribed in regulation and define the emissions per tonne of product processed (e.g. emissions per tonne of milk solids or per tonne of carcass weight). Emissions are expressed in carbon dioxide-equivalents (CO2-e). In the ETS, one emission unit (e.g. NZU) represents one tonne of CO2-e. Visit the regulations page for more information.

Surrender obligations for agriculture

The start date for surrender obligations for biological emissions from agriculture is no longer specified in the legislation. The Government has indicated that biological emissions from agriculture will have surrender obligations in the ETS only if:

  • there are economically viable and practical technologies available to reduce emissions,
  • our trading partners make more progress on tackling their emissions in general.

Agricultural producers are still required to report emissions from 1 January 2012. More information on these amendments can be found on the climate change website

Agriculture ETS Advisory Committee

The Agriculture Emissions Trading Scheme Advisory Committee was established in October 2010 to advise the Government on technical and practical aspects of implementing agriculture in the NZ ETS.

The eight member committee listed below includes representatives from the pastoral sector, research groups and Māori.

Katherine Rich (Chair) – Chief Executive of the New Zealand Food and Grocery Council.
Harry Clark – Director of the New Zealand Agricultural Greenhouse Gas Research Centre.
Keith Cooper – Chief Executive of Silver Fern Farms Ltd.
Edward Ellison – sheep and beef farmer; of Ngai Tahu and Te Atiawa descent.
Mark Leslie – Upper North Island Operations Manager, Fonterra; Chair of the Pastoral Greenhouse Gas Research Consortium.
Roger Pikia – Chief Executive of Te Arawa Group Holdings Ltd; of Tainui and Te Arawa descent.
Simon Tucker – General Manager of Policy and Advocacy at DairyNZ.
Stuart Wright – farmer; Chair of the Foundation for Arable Research; board member for the Ravensdown Fertiliser Co-Operative.

The Committee will serve for two years from 1 October 2010.

The Agriculture ETS Advisory Committee's terms of reference (PDF, 106 KB).

The Agriculture ETS Advisory Committee's report, 30 June 2011 (PDF, 114 KB).

The Agriculture ETS Advisory Committee commissioned this study on reporting greenhouse gases at farm level.

Options to reduce biological emissions on-farm

There are currently few options available for farmers to reduce absolute emissions on-farm. These currently include:

  • planting forests (creating carbon sinks), a good option to utilise erosion prone and marginal land;
  • using fertiliser more efficiently.

Government has a significant research programme underway to develop greenhouse gas mitigation technologies for agriculture. This programme is supported by the New Zealand Agricultural Greenhouse Gas Research Centre; the Global Research Alliance on agricultural greenhouse gases; and the Pastoral Greenhouse Gas Research Consortium.

In addition, Government continues to support research to improve efficiency and productivity across the agricultural sector. This has contributed to on-going improvements in the emissions efficiency of production (emissions per unit of product).

Click text for further information on current initiatives and research.



Last Updated: 25 June 2013

Contact MPI

for general enquiries phone

0800 00 83 33