Agricultural carbon sinks at heart of 2050 net-zero plan

Agricultural carbon sinks at heart of 2050 net-zero plan

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THE PLAN: Prime Minister Scott Morrison holds up a copy of the 2050 net-zero roadmap in parliament. Photo: Sitthixay Ditthavong

THE PLAN: Prime Minister Scott Morrison holds up a copy of the 2050 net-zero roadmap in parliament. Photo: Sitthixay Ditthavong

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Agricultural land offsets, driven by soil carbon sequestration, will be one of the largest contributor to the government's net-zero target.

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AGRICULTURAL land offsets, driven by soil carbon sequestration, will be one of the largest contributors to the government's net-zero target.

On Tuesday, the federal government released its roadmap to reach net-zero emissions by 2050, however the plan was light on details and consisted of pre-existing policies.

Land offsets will make up 10 to 20 per cent of the nation's carbon neutrality. Energy and Emission Reduction Minister Angus Taylor said agriculture had an "enormous potential to provide offsets".

"Australia has 90 million hectares of productive agricultural land which is a very significant carbon sink and can be a more significant carbon sink," Mr Taylor said.

"We are getting significant offsets now in native vegetation and in what farmers are doing with their land. We are starting to see very significant offsets emerging from soil carbon."

National Farmers' Federation president Fiona Simson said the plan confirmed farmers and their agricultural lands held the key to delivering Australia's 2050 goal.

"Now that the political process has played out, it's time for government to sit down with our industry and get stuck into the detail of how we deliver on this together, and make sure it stacks up for farmers," she said.

Gary Nairn, chair of regenerative agriculture research organisation The Mulloon Institute, said soil held three times more carbon than the atmosphere.

"In Australia agriculture comprises 13 per cent of its total emissions, so with our landmass, farmers can contribute significantly to its reduction," Mr Nairn said.

"At the current price of carbon of around $20 per tonne, but rising very quickly, that is not just a goal or a slogan, it is a great opportunity for our agricultural sector to get on board for net-zero."

The government's modelling indicates agriculture's overall emissions will fall by 29 to 36 per cent over the next three decades, with "livestock feed supplements" the only listed emerging technology that will contribute to the reduction.

GrainGrowers chair David McKeon said it was really important for the industry to focus on its "embedded emissions", such as transportation, energy use and fertilizer.

"There's exciting technology on the horizon, but Australia's ability to effectively produce low-emissions products will require hard work," he said.

Despite the public brawl over the plan, the Nationals have been tight-lipped about what compensation the regions received in exchange for the party's support of the policy.

The party did negotiate a Productive Commission review of the socio-economic impacts of the plan every five years to ensure it did not adversely affect rural Australia.

The party was also granted an additional Cabinet position, with Water and Resource Minister Keith Pitt promoted from the outer ministry to the front bench.

As the 2050 plan relies heavily on land offsets, the government's biodiversity and soil carbon pilots may receive more funding to be expanded across the country.

It's speculated the Nationals may have cut an off-the-books deal for extra election funding, with Prime Minister Scott Morrison stating further policies would be announced in regards to securing the regions during the election.

Mr Morrison will fly to Glasgow on Thursday to present the plan to the United Nations Climate Change Conference.

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