Australia rejects methane pledge because of impact on animal farming

Three white and brown cows look into the camera
Three cows with tags in their ears, photo: Annie Spratt via Unsplash

The Australian government has decided not to support plans to cut methane emissions by 30% by 2030, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Thursday. He said the impact on animal farming would be too big.

In September, the United States and European Union (EU) announced the Global Methane Pledge, aiming to mobilize climate action before the start of the UN climate change conference COP26 in Glasgow on Sunday.

Natural gas, open-pit coal mines, and cows and sheep emit methane, which is the second-leading cause of climate change after carbon dioxide (CO2).

Australia’s National Party leader Barnaby Joyce said a 30% reduction in methane emissions would be a disaster for beef, dairy and animal fattening companies.

“The only way you can get your 30% by 2030 reduction in methane on 2020 levels would be to grab a rifle and go out and start shooting your cattle,” Joyce told reporters.

New Zealand might sign
New Zealand, another big methane emitter through its cow and sheep industries, is thinking about signing the Global Methane Pledge.

“New Zealand is actively considering signing up to the pledge and will take a decision soon,” a spokesperson for Climate Change Minister James Shaw said.

In a country like New Zealand, where dairy accounts for around 20% of exports, support for the methane pledge would be a significant step forward.

Methane emissions from animal farming and waste make up more than 40% of New Zealand’s planet-warming emissions and are largely to blame for a poor record on meeting climate goals.

To meet the growing global demand for dairy products, the number of dairy cattle in New Zealand has nearly doubled to 6.3 million animals in the last 30 years.

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