Nats call for ag to be exempt from net-zero target rejected by sector

Nats call for ag to be exempt from net-zero target rejected by sector

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REBUKED: The ag industry doesn't support the calls of Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack to leave it out of any net-zero carbon target. Photo: Sitthixay Ditthavong

REBUKED: The ag industry doesn't support the calls of Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack to leave it out of any net-zero carbon target. Photo: Sitthixay Ditthavong

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The industry doesn't want to be locked out of the opportunities that come with emission reductions.

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THE Nationals have suggested the agriculture industry be exempt from any 2050 carbon neutral target, but the sector doesn't want to be locked out of the opportunities that come with emission reductions.

Global and market forces are pushing the federal government closer to formally committing to a target.

Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack said if Australia made a commitment, it should follow New Zealand's lead and exclude agriculture from a net-zero target - that's despite New Zealand giving its ag sector until 2025 to participate in an emissions trading scheme.

"There is no way we are going to whack regional Australia, hurt regional Australia, in any way shape or form just to get a target for climate in 2050," he said.

"We are not going to hurt those wonderful people that put food on our table."

However, the Deputy Prime Minister's comments were rebuked by the agriculture industry, which stands to financially benefit from emission reduction policies.

National Farmers' Federation chief executive Tony Mahar said any policy that restricted the opportunities available to farmers and regional communities would "clearly be a negative outcome".

"Farmers are in the box seat to seize the opportunities from a reduced emissions future and many are already doing just that," Mr Mahar said.

"Agriculture is in a unique position - different to any other industry - in that farmers can sequester carbon and reduce emissions. Agriculture is too important to leave out and too important to ignore.

"The NFF's climate policy is clear: farming and agriculture cannot be worse off going forward with any carbon commitments or emissions reduction schemes."

Mr Mahar said a proactive approach to emissions reduction was a factor for continued access to valuable export markets.

AgForce Queensland chief executive Michael Guerin said the industry had already played a strong part in reducing emissions.

He wants agriculture to continue leading the charge towards net zero emissions by 2050, but first a baseline must be established.

"For 20 years now, agriculture has strongly contributed to reducing carbon emissions and taking significant action on climate change, and that hasn't been recognised," Mr Guerin said.

"That's why we need to establish baseline data [of the sector's carbon footprint], so we can show what we've done and what we will continue to do."

Australia's greenhouse gas inventory says the sector accounts for 13.1 per cent of the country's total emissions.

John Fargher, co-founder of farm software business Agriwebb said he did not think Australian farmers would benefit from being exempt from any emissions scheme.

"There may be some short term gains from being excluded but longer term it excludes us from opportunities," Mr Fargher said.

"We need to be in it and demonstrate how we are operating is sustainable," he said.

The Greens leader Adam Bandt said farmers could have been earning $50 a tonne - or $11 billion over the next decade - selling carbon abatements to the European Union, if the Morrison government hadn't repealed carbon pricing.

"Because of the Nationals and Liberal Party, Australian farmers first have missed out on booming carbon trading markets and now they are facing a climate tariff on their exports," Mr Bandt said.

"These markets are growing around the world. In recent years they've gotten even more lucrative.

"Farming communities could have had billions of dollars flowing for years now and Australia would not have burned through as much of its carbon budget."

The reaction from readers across Australian Community Media social media sites has been mixed.

Bruce Haigh was so outraged at the suggestion agriculture should be left out of an emissions target, he called his local Nationals MP Andrew Gee.

"If the Nats persisted in climate change denial, inaction and policy sabotage, I will put together a team to stand against him," Mr Haigh said.

Peter Wills pointed to the NFF and NSW Farmers 2050 net-zero goals as evidence the Nationals had ignored the ag industry.

"So even the lobby groups aren't asking for this exemption," Mr Wills said.

"More bull dust rhetoric from the Nats that they are 'doing something' to help, when they are clearly only hindering."

However, Lance Holcombe dismissed the fact the NFF had set an industry-wide target.

"Get rid of the NFF [and] replace it with something run by farmers that actually represents farmer and rural Australian interests, rather than a club for political wannabes making our lives harder," Mr Holcombe said.

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