By Aaron Goodwin
The Australian agricultural sector has hit back at Nationals Leader and Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack after he recently said if the federal government was going to commit to a net-zero emissions by 2050 goal, the agriculture sector should not be included.
Speaking to Sky News recently, Mr McCormack said Australia could follow the lead of New Zealand and exempt emissions from the agriculture sector.
In response to Nationals leader Michael McCormack’s comments over the weekend, Farmers for Climate Action CEO Wendy Cohen said the Australian agricultural industry is already working to reduce its carbon emissions and should aim to reach net zero by 2030.
“Red meat industry body Meat and Livestock Australia is already committed to net zero by 2030 and the National Farmers’ Federation last year backed a net zero by 2050 target,”’Ms Cohen said.
“Far from needing to be left out of a national net zero target, farmers want funding for research and development so they can accurately measure their emissions, reduce them and continue to compete in a low-carbon global economy.”
AgForce CEO Michael Guerin said agriculture was a strong part of the climate change solution and was ready to take part in the conversation with Australia’s science community and political leaders to ensure an evidence-based approach was implemented to achieving our targets.
“It will be incredibly difficult for Australia to achieve its climate change targets if agriculture is excluded from our nation’s goal to reach zero emissions,” Mr Guerin said.
“Agriculture doesn’t want a free pass from its responsibility to the planet.
“Instead, Australia can embrace the enormous amount we are already doing and will continue to do when it comes to reducing emissions.
“Critical, however, to any success in reaching a carbon emissions goal will be establishing the net carbon position for agriculture and land management – genuine baselining that puts the producer at the heart of any deliberations.
“After all, you can’t have a target if you don’t know where you’re starting from.”
“Our own Landscape Management Committee has developed a method for measuring sequestration and emissions at the property level – and measurements clearly show that many or most member properties in Queensland are carbon neutral or better.
”Many are in fact sequestering much more than they emit.”
Farmers for Climate Action deputy chair, agricultural scientist and farmer Dr Anika Molesworth said that facing more frequent and severe droughts, floods and bushfires, Australian farmers are on the frontlines of climate change in this country.
“Farmers are also keenly aware that the global economy is increasingly moving towards a low-carbon future, where trade barriers and carbon tariffs will soon be in place,” Ms Molesworth said.
“In that environment, high-emitting countries risk being left behind.
“The Australian agricultural industry should be working towards reaching net zero by 2030 and in doing so giving itself an edge in global markets.
“Acting on climate change also presents a tremendous opportunity for regional Australia to benefit from the creation of new jobs in clean energy generation, manufacturing and ecosystem restoration work.”
“Rather than being omitted from a national target of net zero by 2050, Australian farmers are calling out for extra funding for research and development, so that they can reach net zero quickly and continue to provide high quality food and fibre to the world.”
Mr Guerin added that incentivising producers to build natural capital and restore landscapes will only increase agriculture’s ability and desire to help meet climate targets.
“This includes compensation for undertaking carbon sequestration services, respect for property rights to give producers the flexibility to manage their land in a way that ensures financial and environmental sustainability, and recognition that producers are making real on-farm decisions that improve the environment at significant personal financial expense,” Mr Guerin said.
“As with most things, it’s about balance.
”Too far one way, we lose our ability to farm and put at risk the unbroken food supply chain we take for granted in Australia.
”Too far the other, we risk further damaging the planet.
“AgForce is ready to have a discussion, one that includes agriculture at the centre of helping address the global challenge of climate change.
“As always for agriculture, it’s about ensuring we protect the land and the environment we rely on for our livelihood, now and into the future, so that we can go on providing for everyone.”