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Are farmers facing double-whammy on emissions ?

- Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Recent political debate on climate change policy seems to have ignored the role agriculture has played in Australia meeting its Kyoto Protocol target, and answers given in Parliament this week point to agriculture being at risk of again bearing an unfair emission burden.

On ABC television this week, a Coalition politician proudly boasted about the Howard government reducing national greenhouse emissions by 80 million tonnes per annum, without any reference to the fact that the emission reduction was largely a consequence of State Government bans on land-clearing on farms, for which most of the impacted farmers received no compensation, despite losing productive use of their land.

Then in Parliament this week, the Prime Minister and the Agriculture Minister both explained that agricultural sequestration could not be recognised under Australian climate change policy, because Australia has ratified the Kyoto Protocol, and opted not to recognise agricultural sequestration in the national emission inventory because of the risks associated with the Protocol accounting rules.

In contrast, the USA has not ratified the Kyoto Protocol, and its climate change legislation proposes to recognise agricultural sequestration as part of its official emissions trading scheme. This will create a new source of revenue for US farmers.

What also emerged in the answers provided on this question, however, was that the ability of major Australian emitters to buy and sell emission credits internationally is a key reason for Australia to be involved in the Kyoto Protocol, because this will reduce the overall cost for Australia in meeting a specific 2020 emission target. This is reinforced by Treasury modelling for the White Paper, which assumed a significant number of international 'credits' would purchased to reduce net Australian emissions, even though gross national emissions were projected to keep increasing.

The implication arising from these answers is that Australia is absolutely committed to the Kyoto Protocol because it provides access to the international emission credit market which will reduce national emission reduction costs. That seems to suggest that even if there is no agreement to change Kyoto Protocol accounting rules as they apply to agriculture at Copenhagen later this year, Australia will remain in Kyoto or its successor, and the farm sector will again face the risk of being the sacrificial lamb on the national emission reduction bonfire!  
Cory commented on 20-Aug-2009 06:07 PM
I think you are right. I cannot see any circumstance where the Australian Government would pull out of the Kyoto Protocol Mark II. It has almost become a dogmatic commitment now especially considering the Government got so much mileage out of it when they signed on.

It has also become clear that the Government is prepared to acknowledge the contribution of agriculture to meeting the Kyoto targets only when it suits them.

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