New Zealand sunrise


November 2023

New Zealand went to the polls nearly a month ago and at the time of writing, the exact make up of the new government and, more importantly, the policies it will implement remain uncertain. The National Party will form the next government but it will need the support of two additional parties in some form of coalition. So considerable doubt remains about what impact the change of government, effectively a drift to the right, will have on One Health matters, especially sustainability and climate change policies.

National’s Climate Change spokesperson Simon Watts says, “A National government will meet New Zealand’s climate change targets by super-charging renewable energy and unlocking new technology to reduce agricultural emissions.”

National signed the Paris Climate Agreement in 2015 and is committed to meeting the Net Zero target by 2050. The outgoing Labour party had committed to taxing methane emissions from farms by 2025 but it is very possible that the introduction of this tax will now be delayed by the new government.

It appears as if the new government, while recognising that agriculture contributes the largest share of New Zealand’s greenhouse gas emissions, intends to focus on the introduction of new technology and on increasing renewable energy generation. Only time will show how much progress emerges from this change of emphasis. New Zealand has much at risk in not meeting its 2030 targets, not least the pending free trade deal with the European Union, which is binding on meeting the Paris 2015 targets; the trade agreement comes into force in 2024.

In this environment it is interesting to note the recent announcement from Fonterra, the largest dairy co-operative in New Zealand, which outlined its road map to net zero by 2050. Fonterra sustainability director, Charlotte Rutherford, recently re-emphasised how sustainability is one of the four core strategic aims of the dairy giant, which has over 8,000 farm suppliers. While confirming its commitment to net zero by 2050, Fonterra presented very specific targets for 2030:

  • A 50% absolute reduction to GHG emissions in terms of scope 1 and scope 2, from a 2018 baseline, which is a build on previous targets for those two scopes.
  • And a new target, which is to reduce Scope 1 and Scope 3 FLAG [1] GHG emissions from dairy by 30% per tonne of Fat and Protein Corrected Milk between 2018 and 2030.

The second goal, linked as it is to each kilo of milk, has been a little controversial. Increasing production will effectively dilute methane produced per litre. New Zealand dairy production is largely pasture based and faces something of a Catch 22, in that one of the proven methods of reducing methane output is by the feeding of grains, oils and additives i.e. intensifying production [2].

Along with most dairy producers, Fonterra has a real issue when it comes to Scope 3 emissions in that 86% of these emissions are on farm and are thus harder to directly influence. Rutherford goes on to say that this significant reduction will come from the adoption of new technology and an increase of on farm efficiency [4]. This from a 2018 base, which places New Zealand amongst the most efficient producers in the world. The goals are SBTI (Science Based Target Initiative) aligned which re-emphasises the commitment to holding the global temperature rise to less than 1.5°C

These targets are ambitious, but as a supplier to many large food companies, who are already on this journey, Fonterra has to develop alongside its policies to match their needs. There is much work to do!

VetSalus welcomes the announcement, particularly the focus on improving farm efficiency. Animal health and welfare are cornerstones of efficient production. For example, a recent international report from Health for Animals [3] suggest a 10% reduction in livestock disease levels will reduce GHG emissions by 800 million tonnes. Our growing group of VetSalus consultants in New Zealand are ready to support the attainment of Fonterra’s ambitious goals.


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References and further reading:

  1. FLAG:Forest, land and Agriculture
  2. Byeng R. Min, Sandra Solaiman, Heidi M. Waldrip, David Parker, Richard W. Todd, David Brauer. Dietary mitigation of enteric methane emissions from ruminants: A review of plant tannin mitigation options, Animal Nutrition, Volume 6, Issue 3, 2020, Pages 231-246,Available from:
  3. Summary – Animal health and Sustainability: A Global Data Analysis - HealthforAnimals
  4. Fonterra announces it's Climate Roadmap |
  5. New Zealand Fonterra targets 30% cut in on-farm emissions by 2030 | Reuters