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Photo: Stuff.
To meet methane goals, New Zealand must cut the number of sheep and cows by 15 per cent, the Climate Change Commission’s decarbonisation blueprint says.

Although I’m eating a vegetarian meal tonight, I’m disappointed in myself for not coming up with lots of interesting vegetarian recipes during lockdown. I had plenty of time to think about it. Part of my problem is that my Covid-era delivery services didn’t offer many prepared vegetarian meals, but it’s a weak excuse. Fortunately, my daughter-in-law knew I was interested in anything vegetarian and often added me to her shopping.

Meanwhile, in New Zealand, they’re way ahead of everyone as usual — not only in terms of trying to cut back on livestock emissions but addressing many other aggressive climate-change goals.

Olivia Wannan writes at Stuff, “Whether you work on the land, in a factory, an office or are still in school, life in 2035 will look significantly different under the Climate Change Commission’s decarbonisation blueprint.

“[If] the Government follows it to the letter., by 2025, you’ll be eligible for a public transport card offering discounted fares until you’re 25, to encourage low-carbon transport habits that may last a lifetime. …

By 2023, the Government’s emissions standards will start to bring lower-carbon cars into the country. The ban on petrol and diesel cars will also be in place as early as 2030. By 2035, both restrictions will also be influencing the second-hand car market, so if you do become an owner, the vehicle will be a lot greener than the cars on the road today. …

“Between now and 2035, you may be one of the thousands of employees that will transition out of carbon-intensive industries and into new jobs. … If you work in an at-risk industry, you’ll be eligible for government support to be re-trained for other roles. If you’re tangata whenua, you’ll be able to opt for education and training developed by Māori. By 2035, many Māori workers will have already transitioned to new industries, with the job gains outweighing losses. …

“The renewable electricity sector will be busy – the country requires one new wind farm to be built almost every year to meet the increased demand for power, plus new transmission lines. …

“By 2035, most truck drivers will be behind the wheel of a low-emissions vehicle, after the battery technology has developed enough to cover longer distances. But there will be fewer trucking jobs, as more freight will travel by rail or sea. … You’ll be twice as likely to head to the office by bike or on public transport, compared to today. If you still want to drive to the CBD, you may have to pay a congestion charge, with your cash helping to fund lower-carbon forms of travel. …

“By 2035, your office must be a pleasant place to be in all seasons, courtesy of energy efficiency standards for new and existing buildings. Building owners will have ditched coal in all heating systems by 2030. Natural gas will be phased out after that. …

“Across the country, dairy and meat farmers will reduce animal numbers by 15 per cent between 2020 and 2030. However, this isn’t an across-the-board cut. The efficiency gains you’ll make on your farm will probably differ to what your neighbours achieve. It’s the collective effort that matters.

“This could mean changing your farm management. You’ll need to use the plans, advice and tools developed by the agricultural industry partnership with Government, He Waka Eke Noa – though this guidance won’t be finalised until 2022. You may require reliable internet to precision-manage your farm, so you should have access to broadband by 2023 at the latest. …

“A farm might take a look at the efficiency gains required and choose to replace its cows and sheep with horticulture. An additional 20,000 hectares of land will grow grain, fruit and vegetables by 2035.

“Farmers staying in the meat or dairy business will carefully manage their use of nitrogen fertiliser (which creates the greenhouse gas nitrous oxide) and supplementary feed, which will cut expenses. Some will try their hand at regenerative farming, which aims to create healthier soil and land.

“Sheep farms will select rams that carry the genes to produce less methane when food is digested. The widespread uptake of low-methane sheep breeds will cut the country’s agricultural methane by 3 per cent by 2035. …

“If you have unproductive land sitting around, you’ll be able to access public funding to plant it with native trees. Nearly 250,000 additional hectares of sheep and beef farmland will be afforested by 2035. Combined with a ban on native deforestation in 2025, you’ll more frequently spot native birds and lizards, particularly if you fence off your bush and undertake pest control.

“Collective action will allow New Zealand to continue to promote the comparatively low-carbon credentials of its dairy and meat to international markets. …

“Buildings will be increasingly constructed using timber, which is less emissions-intensive than concrete and steel. By 2025, new natural gas connections will be banned. A decade after that, remaining gas appliances for cooking or heating will be increasingly costly. Because the domestic carbon price will steadily rise, the average annual gas bill will cost $150 more in 2035 compared to 2020.

“In comparison, the price of electricity will drop during the 2020s, after the Tiwai smelter closes. It’ll gradually rise again towards the end of the decade but should stay lower than today’s costs. …

“Remote and Māori communities will be able to access funds to build their own solar generation.”

It will likely to be hard to achieve all that, even with the less environmentally friendly biomass use and burning of “renewable” wood. But I think they are taking this seriously.

More at Stuff, here. Hat tip: Svein Tveitdal, @tveitdal, on twitter.

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Erik’s running buddy passed along a BBC story suggesting that cutting back on meat could have value for the planet.

Interestingly, that was the premise of Frances Moore Lappé‘s 1971 bestseller, Diet for a Small Planet, which my sister got me interested in when she was a vegetarian.

At the BBC, environment analyst Roger Harrabin notes research that confirms some of Lappé’s predictions.

“Research from Cambridge and Aberdeen universities estimates greenhouse gases from food production will go up 80% if meat and dairy consumption continues to rise at its current rate. That will make it harder to meet global targets on limiting emissions.

“The study urges eating two portions of red meat and seven of poultry per week. However that call comes as the world’s cities are seeing a boom in burger restaurants. …

“If [the trend] continues, more and more forest land or fields currently used for arable crops will be converted for use by livestock as the world’s farmers battle to keep up with demand.

“Deforestation will increase carbon emissions, and increased livestock production will raise methane levels and wider fertiliser use will further accelerate climate change. The lead researcher, Bojana Bajzelj from the University of Cambridge, said: ‘There are basic laws of biophysics that we cannot evade.’

“The average efficiency of livestock converting plant feed to meat is less than 3%, and as we eat more meat, more arable cultivation is turned over to producing feedstock for animals that provide meat for humans.” Read more here. And consider going in for mushroom burgers.

I only ever made the eggplant casserole Diet for a Small Planet, but it sure was yummy.

Photo: CiteLighter-Cards
In 1971, Frances Moore Lappé wrote that raising animals for food takes resources better used elsewhere. It can also put too much methane into the atmosphere.

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The concrete that the ancient Romans created is so durable that it may hold lessons for those who want to reduce carbon emissions.

Paul Preuss, from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, explains.

“The chemical secrets of a concrete Roman breakwater that has spent the last 2,000 years submerged in the Mediterranean Sea have been uncovered by an international team of researchers led by Paulo Monteiro of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab), a professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of California, Berkeley.

“Analysis of samples provided by team member Marie Jackson pinpointed why the best Roman concrete was superior to most modern concrete in durability, why its manufacture was less environmentally damaging – and how these improvements could be adopted in the modern world.

“ ‘It’s not that modern concrete isn’t good – it’s so good we use 19 billion tons of it a year,’ says Monteiro. ‘The problem is that manufacturing Portland cement accounts for seven percent of the carbon dioxide that industry puts into the air.’ …

“The Romans made concrete by mixing lime and volcanic rock. For underwater structures, lime and volcanic ash were mixed to form mortar, and this mortar and volcanic tuff were packed into wooden forms. The seawater instantly triggered a hot chemical reaction. The lime was hydrated – incorporating water molecules into its structure – and reacted with the ash to cement the whole mixture together.”

Apparently the key ingredients are found all over the world, enough to make a big difference in construction — and carbon emissions.

There’s more at the Berkeley Lab site for readers who can follow a technical explanation.

Photo: Berkeley Lab

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