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Time to get real on practical climate policy

Last week the Climate Change Authority published its third and final report - Towards a policy toolkit – the last stage in its special review into Australia’s climate action.

The CCA acknowledges the fundamental challenge of feeding a growing world population without producing more emissions.  Resolving this challenge is reflected in the types of policies that the CCA recommends for the farm sector, including:

  • The recognition that offset (carbon market) schemes that issue credits for emissions reduction activities that can then be sold either to government or private sector purchasers are well suited to the sector;
  • The importance of innovation to drive down the emissions intensity (more product per unit of emission) of our production systems; and
  • Unlocking the opportunities for emissions reduction (both through sequestration in vegetation and soil, and from reducing the emissions intensity of farming systems) both through innovation to identify methods.

Take a look back at my blog from a few weeks ago.  It’s encouraging to see that NFF’s solutions driven policy agenda has been reflected by the CCA.

The CCA’s recommendations are sensible, as they reflect the reality of farm businesses
Jack Knowles, NFF

The CCA report also highlights that there are a number of policy tools that are less suited for the farm sector including:

  • mandatory coverage of agriculture in a cap and trade or similar scheme; and
  • direct regulation.

The CCA’s recommendations are sensible, as they reflect the reality of farm businesses.  The majority of Australia’s 123,000 farm businesses are small, with relatively low emissions profiles, resulting in high transaction costs as the verification of emissions reduction is complex.  The very nature of farming means that our businesses are part of the natural carbon cycle.  Blunt regulatory tools are unable to take into account the very diverse nature of farm businesses and the interactions with the natural carbon cycle.

There has been some discussion as to whether the CCA has fully met its terms of reference with 2 authority members releasing a minority or dissenting report.  For the farm sector, the key point of difference between the two is clarity around the role the regulation of vegetation management.

The CCA majority refers to the need for greater synergies between carbon and natural resource management policies.  The minority report calls for greater regulation of land clearing.

Neither report acknowledges the fundamental inequity of unfair regulation of vegetation
Jack Knowles, NFF

There is no doubt that native vegetation management has significantly enhanced the ability of Australia to meet its international carbon reduction targets to date.  In the past, the CCA has acknowledged that reductions in land clearing imposed on land managers by State Government regulation have been the biggest sectoral contributor to emissions reductions in Australia since 1990, with net emissions declining by 85 per cent from 1990 to 2012[1].

Neither report acknowledges the fundamental inequity of unfair regulation of vegetation.  The small percentage of Australian farmers who wish to develop land have worn much of the cost of meeting Australia’s climate goals, without access to a market or payments to deliver this service.

For the farm sector, the CCA’s Toolkit Report provides a good foundation for next year’s review of Direct Action Policies.  As a nation, we will need to ask and to answer some questions that will affect farmers. 

These three questions are just a starting point for the conversation…

  1. How are our climate and natural resource management goals integrated and how can they recognise the environmental and carbon services and that farmers provide?
  2. How do we genuinely unlock the participation of farmers in carbon markets?
  3. What are the next frontiers in farm sector innovation to drive down our nitrogen, methane and carbon emissions?

[1] Climate Change Authority (2014) Reducing Australia’s Greenhouse Gas Emissions— Targets and Progress Review Final Report Pg 244

Jack Knowles is the Environment Policy Manager for the National Farmers' Federation, based in Canberra.

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1 Responses

    Australia needs to wake up to the scam of carbon trading being imposed upon us. We control a huge amount of the world's atmosphere (especially when the sea surface we control is considered) so we should be receiving massive compensation from the rest of the world population who are contaminating our clean air. Some idiot who probably has much to gain must have designed this trading scheme and even bigger idiots are agreeing to the idea. Me thinks the Emperor has no clothes! Time to stand up for Australia and not let big business rip us off in this area because the general run of the population have miniscule understanding of what is involved here. DEMAND THE WE BE COMPENSATED not send money to some mystery hidden overseas destination.

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