The Australian Government has confirmed that it will sign a global pact to reduce methane emissions by 30% over the next 10 years, also promising farmers that no additional taxes or levies will apply as a result.
Australia joins the UK, US and EU and more than 100 additional nations who have backed the pledge which was previously dismissed by the Morrison Government because of concerns around the impact on agriculture.
Methane represents around a quarter of Australia’s total emissions, and half of all methane emissions are generated by agriculture. Globally, Australia is the 11th highest emitter of methane.
During the announcement last week, Climate Change Minister Chris Bowen said that it was essential for Australia to contribute to global emissions reductions.
“If this pledge is met, it will contribute to an avoidance of 0.2 degrees of warming, which is very important as we strive to keep the world as close as possible to one and a half degrees of warming,” said Climate Change minister Chris Bowen.
While Liberal party members have criticised the move, many industry groups have welcomed Australia’s membership with the pledge, including Farmers for Climate Action.
“Farmers deserve the security of a safe and stable climate in which to grow our food,”
Said the organisation’s CEO Dr Fiona Davis.
“Farm methane has been dropping while methane from the gas industry has been rising.”
John McGoverne, the head of the Cattle Council of Australia, said that the pledge was welcome “provided there are no new taxes or reduction of herd numbers.”
“The Australian beef industry is already on track to reach net zero emissions without reducing livestock numbers,” he added.
R&D Could Hold the Key to Methane Reductions
Minister Bowen backed the announcement of Australia’s pledge with a focus on research and development as a key strategy to support methane reduction strategies with $5 million being invested in projects to develop low-emissions feed supplements.
Several companies, including Rumin8 and FutureFeed, are currently trialling seaweed-based supplements for their ability to reduce the amount of methane emitted by cattle. Initial laboratory trials with Rumin8 have shown a 95% reduction in methane, while FutureFeeds promote a reduction of over 80%. It is also likely that farmers will be able to market beef with sustainable credentials and earn carbon credits.
While the products are yet to be commercialised, there is concern about the production and financial viability of seaweed-based cattle supplements. A recent study showed that the likely cost would be around $1000-a-head per year, and it is not yet clear whether the Australian seaweed industry will be able to produce the amount required without significant investment.
The potential supply issues have prompted Rumin8 to consider a pharmaceutical alternative with a pilot plant due to start production in 2023.
A long-acting dose – which has the ability to last for up to 6 months once ingested – is currently under development, providing a potential solution to extensive cattle operations.