New Zealand farmers have been given more time before they must pay a levy on the methane excreted by their livestock, as a general election looms.
The Labour government, lagging in the polls, on Friday pushed back the start date of its climate plan to price the greenhouse gases that come from agriculture.
The scheme will now kick in at the end of 2025 rather than during the first quarter.
New Zealand is home to just five million people but around 10 million cattle and 26 million sheep.
Nearly half its total greenhouse gas emissions come from agriculture, mainly in the form of methane, a much more powerful gas than carbon dioxide in the short term.
The country is one of the first to announce such a price on agricultural emissions, which has proven unpopular with some farmers, who last year drove their tractors onto motorways and into towns in protest.
The government has moved to address some of these concerns ahead of an October election. National, the largest opposition party, is considering such a tax only from 2030.
The Labour government believes the plan is necessary to curb climate change and would offer Kiwi meat a competitive advantage.
But many farmers argue it will hurt their profit and could increase emissions by shifting farming to countries less efficient at making food.
Agriculture minister Damien O’Connor said in a statement: “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.”
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.