Farmers need help to reach net zero by 2050, climate report

Farmers need help to reach net zero by 2050, climate report

Analysis
The National Farmers Federation and other key farming groups support the 2050 target but say to get there will need government policy change.

The National Farmers Federation and other key farming groups support the 2050 target but say to get there will need government policy change.

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Australian farmers are going to need help to reach a net zero carbon emission target by 2050.

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Australian farmers are going to need help to reach a net zero carbon emission target by 2050.

This is a key finding in a study published by independent think tank the Grattan Institute on the weekend.

The institute said agriculture was responsible for 15 per cent of Australia's greenhouse gas emissions in 2019.

Cattle and sheep account for 75 per cent of those emissions, the report found.

Including agriculture in any net-zero target was necessary if Australia was to reach net zero across the economy, and would reduce the risk of Australian exporters being subjected to future carbon tariffs from other nations, Grattan Institute's energy and climate change program director Tony Wood said.

The report comes as the Coalition government tussles over how to take a net zero emissions target by 2050 to the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow in November.

The government's junior partner, The Nationals, are pushing back on the goal saying agriculture should not be expected to do all the heavy lifting.

The Nationals are also worried about potential job losses in key electorates with coal mining.

The National Farmers Federation and other key farming groups support the 2050 target but say to get there will need government policy change.

NFF president Fiona Simson has said farmers will need "far better tools for evaluating and reporting on individual business emissions".

"This will require new investment in research and development, so we have more robust baseline information, new pathways to reduce emissions, and fewer barriers to participation in carbon markets," Ms Simson said.

The Grattan Institute report said agriculture "is one of the most difficult sectors in which to cut emissions".

The Federal Government should do more to encourage farmers to deploy low-emissions technologies and practices, the report says.

The government should spend more on programs which provide practical advice to farmers on how to reduce emissions and secure resilient income streams.

"It should also boost support for research and development of methods that might enable livestock producers to thrive in a net-zero future," Mr Wood said.

Even with this support, agriculture is still likely to be a major source of emissions in 2050.

"These will have to be offset by removing carbon from the atmosphere and permanently storing it, either in trees, soils, minerals, or underground.

The report says there are not yet credible ways to eliminate methane from cattle and sheep (the largest source of emissions).

It will take time to implement better manure and fertiliser management across the nations 50,000 broadacre farms and electric vehicles and equipment are not yet fully available to substitute for diesel ones.

"The Federal Government should sharpen the incentives for farmers to deploy low-emissions technologies and practices that are available," the report says.

"This will require improving the Emissions Reduction Fund. The Government should also invest more in programs that deliver practical advice to farmers.

"Governments have a crucial role in supporting R&D of methods that might enable Australias livestock producers to thrive in a net-zero future.

"Even with this support, it is likely that the agriculture sector will still be a major source of emissions in 2050 which must be offset at the expense of taxpayers, farmers, or consumers."

The report found Australian farmers stand to benefit considerably from actions that reduce emissions and limit climate change.

Graphic: Grattan Institute.

Graphic: Grattan Institute.

The government should improve data collection of onfarm emissions-related practices, to ensure farmers receive proper credit for their actions, the report recommended.

"Governments should not limit landholders opportunities to perform credible carbon dioxide-removing activities.

"Governments should ask Food Standards Australia New Zealand to remove regulatory barriers to alternative protein products entering the market and competing on their merits."

Smarter land management can boost farm productivity and store carbon, creating carbon credits that will be in-demand as the economy approaches net zero, the report's authors said.

The more that farmers can reduce emissions, the fewer credits they will need to offset their own emissions, and the more they can sell to others - diversifying their revenue streams.

Curbing emissions today is the key to maximising this economic opportunity.

This is the third in a series of five reports Grattan is publishing in the lead-up to the international climate conference in Glasgow in November,

The first two reports, on transport and industrial emissions, can be read online. The final two reports, on offsetting carbon emissions and on electricity, will be published in coming weeks.

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The story Farmers need help to reach net zero by 2050, climate report first appeared on Farm Online.

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