Australian agriculture’s role in future greenhouse emission reduction policies

 

The Hon Mark Butler MP
Shadow Minister for Climate Change and Energy
Federal Member for Port Adelaide


The Hon Josh Frydenberg MP
Minister for the Environment and Energy
Federal Member for Kooyong

The Hon Josh Frydenberg MP

Australia’s agricultural sector is helping Australia to meet its emissions reduction targets while improving productivity and delivering broader environmental benefits.

The Australian Government’s $2.55 billion Emission Reductions Fund is providing incentives for Australian farmers and landholders to adopt new practices and technologies to reduce Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions.

Across the five auctions held to date, 435 projects have been contracted to deliver more than 180 million tonnes CO2-e of emissions reductions, at an average price of $11.83 per tonne.

Eighty-one per cent of this total will be delivered by projects established on farmland. The Australian Farm Institute has estimated some $300 million per year of revenue will be earned by these farm based projects.

The results of the Fund demonstrate the key role the farm sector can play in helping Australia achieve its greenhouse emission reduction targets.

More than $300 million remains in the Fund for future projects, with a sixth auction scheduled for 6–7 December 2017.


Q1.  Given the significant contribution that agriculture has already and is currently making to emission reduction in Australia, what type of policies do you believe should be adopted in the future to encourage emission abatement by businesses in the agriculture sector?

 

The Hon Mark Butler MP

The land sector has played a great part in abating carbon pollution, but its potential is much greater than has been realised.

Labor has always been a great supporter of climate action by farmers and other landholders. That’s why we established the Carbon Farming Initiative, which not only cuts carbon pollution, but also provides a valuable source of income for project proponents.

Labor remains committed to the carbon farming initiative and to ensuring it becomes a sustainable part of our suite of policies to tackle climate change.

The Hon Josh Frydenberg MP

The Fund is supporting land managers and farmers to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve the environment.

Land managers and farmers are contributing to emissions reduction in a number of ways, including adopting new practices to store carbon in trees and the soil, avoiding greenhouse gas emissions by not clearing land and actively managing savanna fires across northern Australia.

Several government programs and policies are supporting farmers to reduce their emissions and adapt to the changing climate.

For example, through the Fund, the Bulgoo Station Native Forest Project in south Cobar, western New South Wales is delivering over 650,000 tonnes of abatement. The project will provide long-term protection of 7000 hectares of native forest on marginal land on Bulgoo Station. The project manages the risk of bushfires and feral goats in these forests while continuing to graze sheep during dry times.

The Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) provides opportunities for agricultural businesses to reduce emissions and operating costs through finance to invest in energy efficient equipment and renewable energy upgrades. As at September 2017, the CEFC has made $553 million of total commitments to the agribusiness sector. Of this, $149 million was applied directly to major projects worth $361.4 million. A further $404.5 million of CEFC finance will be taken up by the agriculture sector in aggregation programs, which support smaller projects or clean energy vehicles in agribusiness.

The Government is also helping boost farm profits at the farm gate and deliver climate change action. The Government recently provided $5.5 million to the Rural R&D for Profit program to help explore how new legume varieties can increase soil fertility, reduce weeds, diseases and fertiliser use.


Q2.  What lessons do you believe have been learnt as a result of the Emission Reductions Fund process, and how should these be incorporated into future emission abatement policies relevant to the agriculture sector?


The Hon Mark Butler MP

Labor has always said putting the entire cost of cutting carbon pollution on the taxpayer is neither an efficient nor a fair way to cut our emissions more broadly. Labor subscribes to the broad principle that the polluter should pay to lower pollution that is harmful to society as a whole. Only by applying this principle, and allowing carbon farming offsets to play their part, can a long-term sustainable future for carbon farming be created.

The Hon Josh Frydenberg MP

The Fund is successfully supporting low-cost abatement opportunities across Australia, including in the agriculture sector. For example, vegetation activities are providing new income to farmers and land managers by integrating with existing agricultural activities such as grazing.

The Fund is delivering other benefits on top of reducing emissions. For example:

  • improving native vegetation on agriculture land is reducing run-off and improving water quality in key catchments, including the Great Barrier Reef
  • farm productivity is improving and the Fund is providing an additional income stream for farmers and land managers
  • savanna fire management projects in northern Australia are providing cultural, environmental and economic opportunities for Indigenous Australians.

The Fund is providing world-class standards for reporting, verification and measurement of emissions reductions. The Australian Government is engaging with the agriculture sector to learn about ideas and opportunities for reducing emissions.

Further, the Government is reviewing its climate change policies during 2017 to ensure they remain effective in achieving Australia’s 2030 emissions reduction target and Paris Agreement commitments. The review is examining the opportunities and challenges of reducing emissions on a sector by sector basis, including for the agriculture sector.


Q3.  Given current challenges associated with energy security and affordability and the likely impact that responses will have on Australia’s greenhouse emission inventory, it seems likely that emission reductions achieved by the agriculture sector will become more critical in the future in order for Australia to meet future emission commitments. Do you agree with this, or are there other options that would better position Australia to meet its future emission commitments?


The Hon Mark Butler MP

Land sector carbon abatement will play a central role in Australia’s transition to a clean energy economy. Our potential land sector abatement is one of our huge advantages in a low carbon economy, and we would be incredibly foolish to not use this great asset.


The Hon Josh Frydenberg MP

The agriculture sector will continue to play a critical role in helping to meet Australia’s future emissions commitments.

Across sectors, the Government is investing, through the Australian Renewable Energy Agency and the CEFC, in generating more energy from renewable sources, increasing energy efficiency, and supporting the switch to low-emission fuels.

The CEFC is working with the Australian Government Department of Agriculture and Water Resources to support sustainable agricultural practices that increase energy efficiency and provider greater profitability and productivity for the agricultural and agribusiness sectors.

More information on opportunities for farmers and land managers can be found on the Department of the Environment and Energy’s website: www.environment.gov.au/climate-change/farmers-and-land-managers or visit www.energy.gov.au/business for practical help to improve energy productivity and efficiency, reduce bills and find funding for your business.