On Parliament’s first sitting day of the year,
Greenpeace has today delivered a petition with the names of
33,000 New Zealanders calling for the Government to phase
out synthetic nitrogen fertiliser.
Minister David Parker accepted the petition, which was
accompanied by a 9m long banner reading “Climate crisis: Cut
synthetic fertiliser.” Greenpeace
climbers had previously hung the banner on the Fertiliser
Association’s building in Wellington.
has been calling for the Government to phase out synthetic
nitrogen fertiliser, one of the key drivers of industrial
dairying, for over two years.
fertiliser is a river pollutant, a health hazard in our
drinking water, a potent greenhouse gas emitter and it’s
fuelling the bloated dairy industry – New Zealand’s
biggest climate polluter,” says Greenpeace senior
campaigner, Steve Abel.
Synthetic nitrogen fertiliser
use has increased 627% since 1990. When applied to land, the
chemical emits more greenhouse gases than our entire
domestic aviation industry.
In March 2020, the
Government announced a cap on synthetic nitrogen fertiliser
– the first major control on agricultural inputs.
Abel says the cap doesn’t go far enough to protect rivers,
the climate or human health. It also does not cover nitrogen
pollution from other sources.
report today revealed that Fonterra is dumping vast
amounts of nitrogen pollution onto land in the Waikato –
pollution which is far in excess of the 190 kg synthetic
nitrogen per hectare per year cap that applies to synthetic
“As it stands, the cap is set enormously
high, and will still see tonnes of nitrates getting into our
rivers and drinking water. High nitrate levels in drinking
water have been linked to increased rates of bowel cancer,”
“It’s symbolic of a succession of
Governments that have been too afraid to properly regulate
the dairy industry, and that’s what we’re seeing when
companies like Fonterra feel they have free license to
pollute our land and water. We need to control this
dangerous pollutant, through phasing out synthetic nitrogen
fertiliser and regulating nitrate pollution from
The action follows hot on the heels of the
release of the Climate Commission’s draft recommendations
for how New Zealand can tackle the climate crisis.
Greenpeace critiqued the report for not going far enough to
tackle agricultural emissions, and is calling for a bigger
reduction in herd numbers.
Abel says cutting synthetic
nitrogen fertiliser, which is used to rapidly grow grass and
enables more cows to be kept than the land could naturally
support, is essential to reducing herd numbers.
people don’t realise that even if we entirely stopped
using fossil fuels tomorrow, emissions from our food system
would still put us on track for over 1.5 degrees of warming
since 1990. That’s largely due to the way we’re growing
food,” Abel says. (1)
“Drenching the land in chemicals
like synthetic nitrogen fertiliser and cramming cows onto it
is not going to be part of the climate
“Everyone deserves fresh, healthy food grown
in a way that’s good for our climate, rivers and
communities. Phasing out synthetic nitrogen fertiliser is a
vital step in shifting our farming system to one that works
with nature, not against it.”