The National Farmers’ Federation is urging the Federal Government to continue its constructive consultations with agriculture as part of any Global Methane Pledge.
As more than 100 countries around the world, including the EU, the US, and Indonesia pledge a 30 per cent global cut in methane emissions by 2030, the spotlight has fallen on Australia to follow suit.
In New Zealand the move has led to the introduction of a “burp tax” (farmers being charged for methane emissions caused by their livestock emissions), while in the Netherlands, Dutch farmers protested in the streets after the government announced proposals to tackle nitrogen emissions that would lead to radical cuts in livestock and the closure of more than 11,000 farms.
NFF Chief Executive Tony Mahar says industry is committed to avoiding similar outcomes in Australia.
“Recent commentary that Australia is going to sign up to the Global Methane Pledge has given some farmers cause for concern. We won’t support any outcome that would lead to a reduction in livestock numbers, and we’ve had assurances from Government on that front,” he said.
“For agriculture, the best way to reduce emissions further is to arm us with cost-effective technology solutions – not to pursue punitive taxes or regulate farmers out of existence.
“Agriculture and farmers are critical players in the climate change discussion and what we have seen overseas is commitments that will compromise the ability for the agriculture sector to grow. We want to learn from those scenarios and make sure industry and government work together to enable sustainable growth.
“We’ve seen the impact that it’s had in New Zealand. Although the new tax is not due to kick in until 2025, estimates are that by 2030 many farmers will be paying between $15,000 and $50,000 annually, forcing many to leave the industry.
“Ultimately, punitive regulatory measures in isolation only serve to provide perverse and weaker outcomes for everyone, and we do not want to see farmers protesting because they were not adequately consulted prior to the announcements of schemes that challenge their very existence.
“We have engaged with the Federal Government on this and been promised genuine consultation. That needs to continue in a detailed way if rural and regional Australia is going to prosper.”
Methane emissions – which come from natural gas, open pit coal mines, and livestock – are the second-biggest cause of climate change behind carbon dioxide (CO2). They trap more heat than CO2 emissions but break down faster than CO2 in the atmosphere.
“Given the number of sectors that emit methane, any implementation measures can’t simply be targeted at agriculture,” Mr Mahar said.
If Australia does sign the Global Methane Pledge, the NFF says implementation should be focussed on those industries that have much more work to do, and supporting the agricultural industry to achieve its existing commitments.
“Australia’s red meat sector already has its sights set on achieving net zero emissions by 2030. Already the sector has reduced emissions by 53% on 2005 levels.
“Farmers are already leading the charge on climate action in Australia and have earned a seat at the table when these decisions are being made,” Mr Mahar concluded.