Australian farmers will benefit considerably from a reduction in carbon emissions but need greater support to reach Australia’s net-zero target by 2050.
That’s according to a report by the Grattan Institute, released in the lead up to Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s attendance at the United National Climate Change Conference in Glasgow later this month.
Australian agriculture accounts for 15% of national greenhouse gas emissions, with sheep and cattle producing 75% of the total. In addition to contributing to the national overall net-zero goal, Australian agriculture needs to avoid future trade tariffs likely to be imposed on heavy emitters.
A key finding of the report was the need for farmers to be better supported through the development of low-emission technologies to replace machinery currently powered by fossil fuels. Another recommendation focussed on the availability of advisory services to help decision making for farmers looking to reduce carbon emissions or sequester carbon on-farm.
National Farmers Federation president Fiona Simson said that farmers need “far better tools for evaluating and reporting on individual business emissions” in order to access carbon credits under the Emissions Reduction Fund.
“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.
Ernst & Young Report On How Australian Agriculture Can Achieve 2050 Net-Zero Target
Data developed by Ernst & Young suggests that meeting the 2050 net-zero target could be a reality for agriculture if current government policies and schemes were scaled to suit. Several schemes currently support Australian farmers with economic incentives to adopt more sustainable methods, including the carbon farming initiative and the agricultural stewardship package.
With further enhancement, it could be well positioned to assist the sector to decouple economic growth from greenhouse gas emissions and take action to build upon its inherent strengths.How can Australia’s agriculture sector realise opportunity in a low emissions future?, Ernst & Young Australia for Farmers for Climate Action, Sept 2021
The modelling, undertaken by Ernst & Young on behalf of Farmers for Climate Action, suggested that agriculture could reach net zero emissions by 2040. Key actions include a reduction in methane, a move to renewable energy sources and changes in land management use.
The report also included a case study on the electorate of Maranoa in Queensland which has relied on industries including farming, mining, and energy production for local jobs. Upscaling the uptake of sustainable opportunities would generate between 58 million and 71 million carbon credits over ten years, with an economic value of 14,000 – 17,000 jobs in the electorate alone.
Queensland Graziers Diversify with Carbon Storage
Queensland farmers Nadia and Robert Campbell have sold the first carbon credits under the state government’s Land Restoration Fund.
The graziers have stored around 35,000 tonnes of carbon on Goondicum Station near Bundaberg, with the aim of storing another 165,000 tonnes over the next 25 years.
Land management practices including reforestation have been incorporated into their approach, offering a duo of benefits to their business.
“The beauty of our carbon project and working with the LRF is that they’re not two mutually exclusive things when it comes to integrating with our beef production,” Ms Campbell said.
“A better-quality environment means less overheads for us in terms of land management, and we’re seeing those rewards by improving canopy coverage and regenerating large areas of forest.”
Currently, carbon credits are valued at about $18, each representing a tonne of carbon dioxide (or equivalent) removed from the atmosphere.