GUEST BLOG: Māori Climate Commissioner Donna Awatere Huata -Government must encourage Carbon Farming to offset Greenhouse Gas Emissions


Government must encourage Carbon Farming to offset Greenhouse Gas Emissions

The scientific facts get more and more grim with every passing week. Barely a month after the IPCC presented their biggest warning to date that the planet risks catastrophic climate events if we don’t make radical change within a decade, we hear last week that even meeting the targets in the Paris Agreement will dangerously warm the planet and that the tipping point for irreversible ice sheet meltdown is 1.5 degrees Celsius. That on top of the news that the 2018 emissions will be the world’s highest topping even 2017 which was also the highest on record.

Ninety one percent of New Zealanders, in submissions on the Zero Carbon Bill, have responded to global warming by supporting a net zero target across all gases by 2050.

The surest way to help is for farmers to plant permanent forests to offset their own emissions and for other landowners to carbon farm and on sell the credits to businesses making the transition to reduce their emissions. Apart from income from the carbon, there are other benefits, land with forest cover is found to have 90% less damage after severe rainfall, carbon farming doesn’t have the impacts of rotational forestry where there is potential for pine slash to devastate the environment through extreme rainfall.

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But many landowners aren’t convinced about carbon farming especially those still carrying the debts incurred from the crash in the price of carbon a few years ago.

I’ve been on the road with Sir Mark Solomon, Dame Tariana and Hone Harawira on their mission to encourage Māori landowners to plant permanent forests. Having heard, in some areas, a preference for native forest regeneration, Dr Adam Forbes who did his PhD research on how best to accelerate full canopy natives such as Rimu, Kahikatea and Totara was consulted. His advice is that the growth of native forests can be accelerated to achieve full canopy cover provided certain interventions are undertaken, including planting seedlings and creating optimal light wells. As the pines carbon life cycle near its end, the natives begins. The advantage of this mix is that income is generated by pine, net carbon emissions goals assisted and the future spread of native forests assured.  

There are now several carbon farming investment offers  being presented to landowners. What makes Sir Mark and Tariana’s special is that their carbon credits carry a premium as they include such things as funding a planting plan that takes into consideration the ancient natives from that particular piece of land (identified from soil samples), setting up of jobs and training in nursery and planting businesses, capital investment covering forest management for 30 years, 50 – 50 share profits with the landowners and 100 percent to owners after the first 30 years.

The long submission from the Federation of Maori Authorities made no plea to exempt methane from the Zero Carbon Bill. Instead it cautioned against making Māori whose land suffers historical barriers to development carry an unfair share of the transition to a low carbon economy. Māori landowners have enough suitable land to make the difference between achieving our net emissions targets or not.  

But, like all farmers and landowners they need to be assured that they are entering into a stable and fair ETS system and that they will be supported in a long game.

Donna Awatere Huata – Māori Climate Commissioner 


  1. Led by high traditional and cultural affinity to nature and environment, the NZ Maori community is well positioned to guide and support carbon farming practice in Aotearoa.

    “Carbon farming is an opportunity to restore balance within the carbon cycle in a way that will ameliorate climate change, build resilience to drought and increase agricultural productivity naturally.”

    Carbon farming stands for a mix of “agricultural methods aimed at sequestering atmospheric carbon into the soil. Increasing the carbon content of soil can aid plant growth, increase soil organic matter (improving agricultural yield), improve soil water retention capacity, and reduce fertilizer use (and the accompanying emissions of greenhouse gas nitrous oxide (N2O).”

    The term carbon farming is relevant for livestock raising, too. Based on GLEAM, a model developed by FAO’s Animal Production and Health Division to support policy and practice change to achieve sustainable livestock development, GLEAM-i can be run by anyone using the Excel software, including community organizations working in remote rural areas.

    Some methodologies require a simple change of farming practice. For others, incentives are required to get the scheme going.

    The measures to be undertaken have to match an overall strategy for sustainable rural development and transformational socio-economic change toward climate resilience, and cannot be seen in isolation.

    In this context, policy-makers in the Wellington beehive should promote what practices to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from farming will be supported in the country.

    Re-planting, regeneration of permanent forests (types, layers, components), a most valuable approach that deserves wider recognition and supportive application in practice.


  2. Bill Gates wanted a net zero target for all gases but it was for a much earlier date than 2050. To eliminate all gases one has to consider the elimination of everything that emits a gas. I’m old, so I’ll volunteer to go now. Anyone else willing?

  3. gee..!…all those facts/warnings from ms. huata..and not a word about the strongest message of all to enable them to do the most they can to help the planet – namely stopping eating animal-flesh..

    y’know..! 83% of global farmed land is to grow meat/dairy – thus producing 60% of ag-emissions..?…stuff like that…?

    is she an addict..? all the bloggers/media who have de-platformed this issue/argument-thread..since forever….?

    does this explain her de-platforming/excising of this crucial issue/message..?

    carbon farming is bullshit-on-a-stick….

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