By Lucy Craymer
WELLINGTON (Reuters) - New Zealand farmers will have until the end of 2025 before they have to pay for methane produced by sheep and cattle, after the Labour government on Friday pushed back its plans to price agricultural emissions of greenhouse gases.
New Zealand, home to 5 million people, has about 10 million cattle and 26 million sheep and nearly half its total greenhouse gas emissions come from agriculture, mainly methane.
It is one of the first countries to announce it will price agricultural emissions, but the government has faced criticism from parts of the farming community which is concerned about the cost. It has moved to address some of these concerns ahead of an October election, where it is trailing in the polls.
Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor said pricing of such emissions would start in the fourth-quarter of 2025, back from a previously planned start in the first quarter to give farmers more time to adjust.
“It’s important the system to manage and price agricultural emissions is workable, effective, fiscally responsible and set up to last. That’s why we’re taking a measured approach," he said in a statement.
Scientifically validated carbon sequestration such as tree planting around waterways and indigenous forestry would be recognised in the New Zealand Emissions Trading Scheme, he added.
New Zealand's red-meat lobby groups said they were "dismayed" by the plan.
“There is no sound rationale for pricing when the sector is making good progress towards meeting emissions reduction targets,” Kate Acland, chair of Beef + Lamb New Zealand, said in a statement.
The government says that along with meeting commitments to cut emissions, demand was growing from foreign buyers for agricultural products that have sustainability credentials.
National, the largest opposition party, says it will only look to price farm emissions by 2030.
(Reporting by Lucy Craymer; Editing by Stephen Coates)