The National Farmers Federation says Australian farmers are the amongst the world’s most progressive in their approach to mitigating climate change and are poised to go even further.
“The findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Sixth Assessment Report of climate science details a concerning trend which warrants a plan for our nation, including for agriculture,” NFF Chief Executive Tony Mahar said.
“However, the alarming headlines of the report must be read in the context of what agriculture has already achieved.
“Farmers made a significant contribution to over achieving Kyoto targets, and we didn’t get any compensation for doing so. For the current task farmers will play a role but we need to see other parts of the economy stepping up as well, we can’t and won’t bear the brunt of reform again.
“For agriculture it is less about the destination and more about the journey. We need more research, better ideas and greater understanding of the opportunities and risks of adaptation and mitigation. This so that we can make logical and sensible business decisions that we can enhance productivity, manage emissions and actively participate in the new economy,” Mr Mahar said.
There are green shoots. The red meat and livestock sector has an aspiration to be carbon neutral by 2030, that if achieved would position it ahead of most industries across the world. Red meat’s contribution to national emissions have already fallen by 57% since 2005.
Analysis by CSIRO shows it’s possible to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 by increasing soil carbon and reducing emissions without the need to reduce herd and flock numbers.
“There are several millions of dollars being spent on getting better data on soil carbon, and how to manage it for multiple outcomes including carbon, biodiversity and water retention, which will underpin productivity gains,” Mr Mahar said.
“We just need to know more about how the cycle works with management options and how we monitor it more efficiently.
“Investment is also happening in developing alternate pathways to market, and the voluntary carbon market is beginning to attract corporate attention in Australia.”
Mr Mahar said new sciences would also play a key role, such as specialised feed additives that have the potential to maintain or increase productivity while reducing methane emissions by up to 60 per cent.
The NFF supports an economy-wide net carbon neutral 2050 target with two important caveats: an economic pathway is determined and farmers are not burdened by unnecessary red tape.
“Farmers are on the frontline of climate change. They are also the lifeblood of our rural communities and a powerhouse of the national economy.
“Agriculture is committed to continuing to be part of Australia’s climate change solution. It’s essential farmers are assured of the economic sense of any national policy solutions and that, as with all industries, the sector is is given adequate time to transition,” Mr Mahar said.