A MARKET platform matching producers providing biodiversity services with corporations seeking to invest in credible on-farm environmental stewardship is expected to be running by the end of the year.
Plans to pay farmers for the biodiversity benefits they deliver have taken a big stride forward with the Australian government kicking off the legislation process.
Agriculture and Northern Australia Minister David Littleproud made the announcement at a beef industry event in Queensland on Friday, saying the legislation would underpin a national voluntary biodiversity stewardship market.
It will be designed to provide a consistent and credible way to describe and measure biodiversity outcomes, to create a new form of tradeable property and to establish assurance and compliance systems that ensure integrity of the market.
"We are the first country in the world that can measure an improvement in biodiversity," Mr Littleproud said.
"This is intellectual property that the Europeans want and the United States wants.
"We want to be able to put a brand on Australian beef, wheat, cotton, sugar that will give international recognition for the stewardship it comes with.
"If the world wants this, they can pay for it."
Mr Littleproud said negotiations were well underway with large ASX companies who want to be the leaders in this space.
"This isn't about taking productive agricultural land. Rather, it is saying to land managers that those parts of your property that need regenerating, you can do it and get a carbon payment, plus a biodiversity payment," Mr Littleproud said.
The move will build on programs under the Australian government's existing Agriculture Biodiversity Stewardship Package, which Mr Littleproud said was piloting projects that deliver biodiversity outcomes alongside carbon, and enhance remnant vegetation.
As part of these pilots, the Australian National University has created the processes and protocols that measure and reward farmers for undertaking the projects, delivering a system that will be respected by international markets.
Consultation on the legislation will be open to select stakeholders.
The why behind Net Zero 2050
The why behind The Nationals' support of Net Zero 2050 was also explored during Mr Littleproud's talk at the Brisbane event, hosted by beef operation the Australian Agricultural Company.
"Let me say, The National party didn't get it right last time. We bore a burden on regional and rural Australia that we apologise for," Mr Littleproud said of the Kyoto agreement in the 1990s and ensuing native vegetation laws.
"And so we take our responsibility this time around in making this commitment very, very seriously.
"That social licence that Australian farmers have had to be represented, not in a bill but in an opportunity.
"It's not putting a handbrake on by mandating, or by legislation, nor is it handing out a blank cheque. It is putting an environment around farmers to achieve."
Signing up to Net Zero 2050 was also very much about the 'why not', judging from Mr Littleproud's insights.
If Australia was not on the journey, capital markets would have responded, he said.
"Our private and public capital would have been targeted," he said.
"And we did not want to see tariffs imposed on our commodities by those who had committed to net zero.
"While we might want to tell the rest of the world to take a running jump, that won't pay the bills."
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