Oct 14, 2009 - 12:00am
Policy action, not exemptions, are needed to ensure Australian agriculture responsibly manages the risks of climate change and maximises possible returns, the independent Climate Institute said today with the release of a discussion paper on agriculture and climate policy.
The paper - Towards Climate-Friendly Farming - outlines the case for stronger climate action in agriculture, including new income and development opportunities in rural Australia, and policy proposals to enable the rural sector to do its fair share in reducing emissions.
“Australia’s primary producers are on the front line of climate change which the science shows is driving more frequent and intense droughts, and will, without early action, all but wipe out our major food bowls by the end of the century,” said Mark Wootton, owner of Jigsaw farms in Hamilton, Victoria, and is Chair of The Climate Institute.
“Prudent risk management means preparing farmers for both the impacts of climate change and for their inevitable exposure to climate policies – whether that’s emissions trading, or some alternative such as a levy or regulation, or a mix of these.”
Australian agriculture is directly responsible for 15% of national emissions. That’s significantly more than the contribution of the US, European or Canadian farm sectors to their emissions load - 7%, 9% and 10% respectively. When land clearing and poor management of savannah burning are counted, Australian agriculture’s part jumps to over 25%.
While agriculture is a major source of emissions, landholders are, potentially, a big part of the solution to climate change. The opportunity for new, more stable sources of farm income from carbon sequestration is enormous, in the right policy environment.
“Ignoring farm emissions while demanding reductions from others is economically unsustainable and puts an unfair burden on other sectors to work even harder. Unnecessary delay makes adaption and mitigation harder for Australian farmers down the track,” Mr Wootton said.
Towards Climate-Friendly Farming makes several proposals, chief among which are:
- From 2011, a new national Decade of Climate-Friendly Farming program and strategy, complete with resource support for farmers and time-bound targets for action.
- An amendment to the CPRS legislation to extend current “green carbon” forestry provisions and allow landholders to be rewarded for any credible, measurable and internationally compliant sequestration activity; while ensuring land clearing is properly regulated and priced, and carbon forestry benefits landscapes.
- No later than 2013, the introduction of a package of measures – either emissions trading, alternative measures such as levies and regulations, or some mix of these - to send strong and clear price signals to agriculture to invest and innovate, and contribute its fair share to national emissions targets.
Submissions to the discussion paper close on 13 of November 2009.
Read the agricultural discussion paper Towards Climate-Friendly Farming
Read the policy briefing paper