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Scientists clash over New Zealand beef and lamb carbon claims

Screen Shot 2021-03-16 at 9.00.25 AM

Source: Michael Priestley, UK Farmer’s Weekly, 03 March 2021, photo credit: Get Farming

The New Zealand government has clashed with a scientific paper funded by the country’s red meat levy body that claimed its sheep and beef farms are close to carbon neutral.

A report from the Ministry for the Environment says carbon sequestered on New Zealand’s beef and sheep farms is 63% lower than that stated in the peer-reviewed Auckland University of Technology (AUT) study that was published last year.  

The ministry said this is because carbon losses from vegetation and drained soils were factored in and “more appropriate” sequestration rates for natural forest and scrub/shrub were used.

The New Zealand government has clashed with a scientific paper funded by the country’s red meat levy body that claimed its sheep and beef farms are close to carbon neutral.

A report from the Ministry for the Environment says carbon sequestered on New Zealand’s beef and sheep farms is 63% lower than that stated in the peer-reviewed Auckland University of Technology (AUT) study that was published last year.  

The ministry said this is because carbon losses from vegetation and drained soils were factored in and “more appropriate” sequestration rates for natural forest and scrub/shrub were used.

The AUT study, led by AUT applied ecologist Dr Bradley Case, and funded by Beef and Lamb New Zealand, estimated that woody vegetation on beef and sheep farms removed between 10,394-19,655 kilotonnes (Kt) of carbon equivalent/year.

This would offset 63-118% of the sector’s gross agricultural emissions, it said. But ministry figures calculated the farms are a sink for only 5,487Kt of carbon equivalent/year. This accounts for just 33% of farm agricultural emissions.

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