PM's $3.5b climate policy targets farms, land managers

PM's $3.5b climate policy targets farms, land managers

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Photo: Shutterstock.

Photo: Shutterstock.

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Scott Morrison to announce details of his new Climate Solutions Fund in Melbourne today

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The Prime Minister has announced a key policy for regional Australia, committing to invest an additional $2 billion in the Emissions Reduction Fund over the next 10 years, and $1.5 billion for emissions reductions in businesses, infrastructure and local communities.

The policy will be a key element of Scott Morrison’s election campaign and is designed to ensure Australia meets its commitments under the Paris climate agreement to reduce emissions by 26 to 28 per cent by 2030.

Mr Morrison launched the policy in a speech at Melbourne this morning, where contrasted the Coalition's "responsible, practical" policy compared to Labor's more ambitious and economically "reckless" 45 per cent emissions reductions target.

Mr Morrison has to manage a government which is divided between moderates who favour action to address climate change and the right wing which have to date resisted any measures to curb emissions.

"You don't have to choose between the environment and economy," Mr Morrison said today, emphasising funding for practical measures in his new policy.

"It's sensible action without damaging your family budget," Mr Morrison said.

The Emissions Reduction Fund kicked off in 2015 and funds landowners who reduce emissions through energy efficiency, waste management, revegetation, livestock management and so on.

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About 80 per cent of the ERF’s emission reduction has come from farm projects, with vegetation work doing the heavy lifting.

ERF projects are now estimated to be reducing Australia's net emissions by 177 million tonnes CO2-e per annum.

Just $250 million of the ERF’s initial $2.5 billion seed funding remains.

The scale of benefits from the government's policy for the agriculture sector will hinge on whether ecosystems services are included in the scheme.

A fact sheet on the Climate Solutions Fund says farmers will be supported to revegetate degraded land, improving water quality, reducing erosion and salinity, and drought proofing farms - but details are yet to be released.

Last week the Climate Proofing Australia campaign, which includes the Red Meat Advisory Council, Farmers For Climate Action, Greening Australia and the Forestry Products Association, launched to call for government-funding which recognises the public benefits achieved on private land.

Farmers are lobbying for new payment streams for ecosystems services - which includes revegatation, sequestering carbon in the soil and for improving sensitive habitat native for flora and fauna.

Last year Labor announced a more ambitious carbon reduction policy.

Labor committed to a $15 billion plan to cut emissions on 2005 levels by 45 per cent across all industries and to achieve 50pc renewable energy in national generation mix.

The party has a roadmap to emission reduction for the energy sector, but it has yet to detail its plans for other significant emitters, including agriculture.

The government will provide incentives to boost investment in construction of solar and wind projects, including doubling funding for the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, with an additional $10b over five years to increase investment in solar and wind projects, and to subsidise household batteries through concessional loans and invest in industrial energy efficiency.

Labor has also promised $5b to upgrade energy transmission networks.

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