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Agricultural Emissions Dialogue Group

Under the Coordination and Cooperation for Effective Climate Policy Design and Implementation project, in collaboration with the EcoClimate group, work done with the government’s Agricultural Technical Advisory Group, and building on the Integrated Economics of Climate Change project, Motu ran a dialogue group on how to efficiently control agricultural emissions in the short to medium term. The dialogue process drew on and provided feedback to Motu’s ongoing research and looked to ensure that agricultural emissions are addressed in a way that is robust, effective, efficient and fair.

The group was made up of farmers, tangata whenua, representatives from farm industry groups, NGOs and the government. It was informed by a wide range of climate change experts from many different institutions. The group met ten times over an 18 month period, including three two day retreats. As a complement to this group Motu enhanced our emissions trading games as a tool to facilitate understanding in the general population of how the emissions trading system would affect agriculture.

Short film

At the end of the AgDialogue process Motu released a new film on New Zealand’s greenhouse gas emissions, the New Zealand Farming Story: Tackling Agricultural Emissions. This engaging short film covers a wide range of topics, many of which come directly from the AgDialogue Group’s work. In particular, the film addresses ways in which New Zealand could achieve some real reductions in agricultural greenhouse gas emissions. The film comes with a range of teaching materials, including an editable presentation and speaking notes, designed to make the film a good resource to use with secondary and tertiary students, farmers, or people working with farmers - anyone who eats!

Why create a dialogue?

For a good coverage of some of the motivations behind the dialogue, this article is an excellent resource. What follows is a brief summary of why we created the AgDialogue group.

Agricultural emissions make up nearly half of New Zealand’s gross emissions. Finding ways to fairly and efficiently control these could be one of New Zealand’s main contributions to the global climate change effort. In addition, under Kyoto and its successors these emissions impose a considerable burden on New Zealand because we have to pay for (or bear the opportunity cost) of these emissions. In order to address this, agricultural emissions have been slated to enter the New Zealand emissions trading system (ETS) sometime after 2015, pending a government review in that year.

Motu ran a dialogue group process to look at how agricultural emissions can be addressed in a way that that is robust, effective, efficient and fair. The group looked at how to encourage behaviour change amongst farmer to make our farms more GHG (greenhouse gas) efficient, and how to ensure future regulation (through the ETS for example) will be most effective in the short and medium term.

While several groups have been convened to explore various aspects of agricultural emissions, we believe the AgDialogue contributed and can continue to contribute to the discussion in five distinct ways. Our dialogue group took a long-term perspective on the issues. Our coverage was broad:  it included on-farm mitigation and emissions trading; policy options, technology change, non-regulatory options and the interaction with complementary policy goals such as water quality. While Motu’s strength is economics, we brought in experts from a wide range of disciplines. Our process was independent of government and stakeholder groups. This minimised the political pressures on participants and allowed the group to approach the issues in a more open-minded way. Our dialogue process focused on achieving technical consensus rather than gaining political consensus.

We believe that this focus allowed us to make a significant contribution by: identifying policies that are better for everyone including options that are not currently being considered; clarifying tradeoffs where they are unavoidable; and providing a more informed basis for debate on this critical issue. Building understanding and consensus on the major issues will also be beneficial; introduction of policy will become easier politically and administratively. The efficacy of any policy will also improve as agricultural emitters will react more positively as a result of greater understanding and agreement. And we broadened the conversation beyond just what central government can do, but also to individuals, communities, local government and businesses. The contributions of the dialogue group have also continued to ensure that Motu’s ongoing agricultural emissions research is well informed by all stakeholder groups.


What is the dialogue?

We convened a group of smart, open-minded people with a range of technical, sectoral and social perspectives for process which ran from March 2011 to June 2012. We explored a wide range of issues critical to effective design of an agricultural emissions policy. We did not discuss whether New Zealand should participate in an international agreement, the appropriate emissions target for New Zealand or the globe or the appropriate shape for a post-2012 agreement. We discussed what the agricultural sector in New Zealand was capable of doing, and how to get there. The individuals who participated did not ‘represent’ different interests but rather brought their own experience and knowledge to the group effort.

The process was professionally facilitated by Glen Lauder of Common Ground. Meetings were held at regular intervals and included seven half-day meetings which focussed mainly on technical material and three in-depth two day retreats where issues could be discussed in more detail. The groups were presented with the latest research by Motu and other experts, and in turn gave the researchers invaluable feedback to incorporate into their results.

The group operated under the Chatham House rule. Any published outputs will acknowledge their participation (if they choose) but are the sole responsibility of and represent the opinions of Motu researchers alone. We did not aim to produce a consensus view, but successfully produced a focused and informed policy environment within the group and beyond.


This design of this dialogue process built on similar successful dialogue efforts relating to the design of the New Zealand ETS and the design of a nutrient trading programme for Lake Rotorua.