For this section the Institute invites comments from two differing policy viewpoints. In this edition of Farm Institute Insights, the Hon Greg Hunt MP and the Hon Mark Butler MP discuss current Australian competition legislation and how can be improved to protect small businesses and farmers.

 

Emissions Reduction Fund to provide financial opportunities for Australian farmers

The Hon Greg Hunt MP

Federal Member for Flinders
Minister for the Environment

Australia’s commitment to taking action on climate change in line with countries around the world presents considerable opportunities domestically for farmers and landholders across Australia. In fact, the Government’s $2.55 billion Emissions Reduction Fund provides one of the most significant financial opportunities ever for Australian farmers.

2015 will be an important year in international climate change policy, with a new global climate change agreement to be discussed in Paris at the end of the year. This new agreement will govern the actions that countries take from 2020 onwards.

All countries are expected to take on emissions reduction commitments under the agreement and a taskforce has been established in the Prime Minister’s department to develop Australia’s commitment. This new commitment will follow on from Australia’s 2020 emissions reduction target of 5% below 2000 levels.

In developing our post-2020 target, we will carefully consider the extent to which other countries, especially major economies and trading partners, are taking real and comparable action.

Australia has been one of the world’s best performers in curbing emissions growth. Our comparative success in reducing emissions is all the more impressive given the Australian economy grew by 88% and our population by 29% between 1990 and 2010 – growth rates that are almost unique in the developed world.

In 2015, Australia will host a workshop for Asian, African and Latin American countries to discuss the role of agriculture in international climate change policy and share Australia’s approach, particularly in carbon farming.

Carbon farming has a proven record of reducing emissions in Australia, with almost 12 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions being avoided from the land and waste sectors since the Carbon Farming Initiative began in 2011. That’s the equivalent of taking more than 3.3 million cars off the road. The Government’s $2.55 billion Emissions Reduction Fund builds on the Carbon Farming Initiative, expanding it to include all sectors of the economy.

The Emissions Reduction Fund will purchase emissions reductions from eligible projects using approved ‘methods’ – the rules for estimating emissions reductions from proposed activities. Funds will be allocated through an auction and the Government will contract with successful bidders for the delivery of emissions reductions. The first auction is due in the first quarter of this year.

More than 20 methods are already available. A range of new methods now being developed will provide further opportunities for agriculture. They include soil carbon sequestration (storage), beef cattle herd management, savanna fire management, avoided land clearing and fertiliser use efficiency for irrigated cotton.

This puts farmers in the box seat to make productivity gains on their land while also helping cut Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions.

The Government’s agricultural competiveness White Paper – also due this year – will drive the long-term agricultural policies of the government and ensure Australia’s agriculture sector remains a significant contributor to the economy and local communities.

Together these initiatives will make 2015 an exciting year for our agriculture industries

Greg Hunt is the Federal Minister for the Environment and the Federal Member for Flinders.


 

Global tide of change opens opportunities for Australian businesses

The Hon Mark Butler MP

Federal Member for Port Adelaide
Shadow Minister for Environment, Climate Change and Water

As Australia experiences its longest drought in history, our farmers are having their inherent ability to adjust to the conditions tested.

Unfortunately, climate scientists warn that long-term drought conditions may persist as Australia’s temperatures continue on the warming trend of the past decades. I don’t need to tell Farm Institute Insights readers of the impacts this will have on Australia’s agriculture industry.

Last year saw a huge shift in momentum towards taking strong global action to reduce the effects of climate change. United States (US) President Barack Obama released his Clean Power Plan, United Nations Secretary-General hosted world leaders in a climate summit and most importantly, one of the world’s biggest polluters, China, moved towards a clean energy future by introducing eight emissions trading schemes, signing a historic agreement with the US and attracting $32 billion in investment in renewable energy. It’s clear the biggest economies recognise the urgency to take action on climate change due to the devastating economic impacts of a warming climate.

This global tide of change opens opportunities for Australian businesses to be involved in developing new technologies that improve efficiency, sustainability and ultimately reduce carbon pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.

Many Australian farmers are already leading the way with practical adjustments to their practices as they adapt to the changing climate. I’ve read with great interest some of the activities being undertaken in drought-stricken areas that have seen reductions in pollution, improvements in land viability and increased yield profitability.

Labor’s Carbon Farming initiatives were doing real things for farmers, for example farmers could have avoided clearing land that had been approved for clearing, instead using it for sustainable grazing and earning carbon credits. There are also proven benefits from simple measures such as changing feed types for dairy cows, which has reduced methane emissions and increased milk yields.

Farmers have always been adaptable to the conditions at hand and adjusting to meet the challenges presented by events such as drought and floods.

'In its submission to the Federal Government’s Agriculture Competitiveness Green Paper, the National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) said:

A continued challenge for much of the agriculture sector is that many cost-effective emissions reduction technologies are still in the embryonic phase of research and development and further investment is required to unlock the potential for further abatement in agriculture.

The NFF confirmed there’s a willingness within the agriculture sector to contribute to Australia’s emissions reduction efforts.

There are constructive ways for the Abbott Government to work with the agriculture sector to reduce the intensity of agricultural emissions, while ensuring that Australian farmers are not unfairly disadvantaged in the global market place.

The responsibility falls upon the Abbott Government to provide the policy framework to support the development of the technologies and practices to help farmers meet these objectives. Inexplicably, the Abbott Government has not included resource sustainability in the terms of reference for its agricultural White Paper.

As the world explores the possibilities of sustainable farming practices, consumers are seeking clean and sustainable products and there is a growing need within the agricultural sector to adapt to changing conditions, Australian farmers are provided opportunities that can be created by developing new practices. As a country that’s reliant on the agriculture sector, we need to support the industry to embrace these opportunities, invest in best-practice development, assist neighbouring developing countries with improving their practices and create a competitive edge for our agricultural exports.

While last year was a big year for climate policy internationally, 2015 should be even bigger. In December, world leaders will meet in Paris to agree on post-2020 emissions reduction targets. While the targets are important, the means for achieving the targets is what will impact Australian businesses.

Agriculture has a big role to play in our emission reduction activities, with potential to change the way we use our land with the view to improved sustainability and profitability.

The Hon Mark Butler MP was elected to Federal Parliament in 2007 representing the electorate of Port Adelaide. His career in Parliament has so far included: Parliamentary Secretary for Health; Minister for Mental Health and Ageing; Minister for Social Inclusion; Minister Assisting the Prime Minister on Mental Health Reform; Minister for Housing and Homelessness; Minister for Climate Change, Environment, Heritage and Water.

Mark is currently the Shadow Minister for the Environment, Climate Change and Water.

Back to February 2015 Insights contents page.

Images: Hell’s Geriatrics, Tim J Keegan, USDA