Case for farmers to be included in net zero target

By Jackson Graham

Tuesday September 28, 2021

Farms need to be included in any target for Australia to reach net zero by 2050, a think tank warns ahead of world leaders meeting at Glasgow.
Farms need to be included in any target for Australia to reach net zero by 2050, a think tank warns ahead of world leaders meeting at Glasgow. (Alberto/Adobe)

Farms need to be included in any target for Australia to reach net zero by 2050, a think tank warns as the Coalition debates its emissions policies ahead of world leaders meeting at Glasgow.

A new Grattan Institute report says the agriculture sector was responsible for 15% of Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions in 2019. 

Cattle and sheep were the cause of three quarters of the emissions and as regions recover from drought the report says that portion should climb further. 

“The agriculture sector is particularly vulnerable to climate change,” the report said. “Yet it is also a difficult sector in which to cut emissions.” 

The hurdles include a lack of credible methods to eliminate methane from cattle and sheep, the time to introduce better manure and fertiliser management across Australia’s broadacre farms, and electric vehicles yet to substitute diesel, the institute highlights. 

The report, authored by Tony Wood, Alison Reeve and James Ha, recommends not carving out agriculture from an Australian commitment to reach net zero emissions by 2050. 

Federal treasurer Josh Frydenberg last week told a business forum the nation’s economy would suffer if Australia did not commit to international agreements such as the 2050 target, signalling a shift in the government’s rhetoric to ‘preferably’ meet the goal. 

Prime minister Scott Morrision acknowledged the government would consider its plan ahead of November’s Cop26 summit in Glasgow, while Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce said his party would look at the issue. 

Cracks are showing in the Nationals party as Darren Chester, supportive of action on climate change, takes a break from the party room and Queensland senator Matt Canavan said he was “dead set against ” a 2050 target

A group of former top diplomatic representatives to Australia has also signed a letter to Scott Morrison calling for the federal government to adopt a net zero 2050 target, as reported in The Mandarin on Monday. 

The Grattan Institute report suggests the government should improve the emissions reduction fund in relation to agriculture and invest in a multi-decade outreach program to deliver advice to farmers. 

The think tank also recommends a boost for research and development of methods that might help livestock producers succeed in a net-zero environment. 

But it warns even with extra 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,” a statement from the authors says. 


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