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Climate of inaction presents real challenge for farm sector

This week I joined a Q&A style debate at the Carbon Market Institute’s 2017 Emissions Reduction Summit, with Members of Parliament and other representatives from business and industry, to discuss the state of climate policy in Australia.

As is widely recognised, the 2015 Paris Agreement was a watershed moment for global action.  197 nations signed up to a collective goal to keep the global temperature increase to well below 2°C and pursue efforts to keep warming below 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.  144 nations, including Australia, have now ratified this agreement.

Currently, Australia’s agreed contribution to the Paris Agreement is an emissions reduction target of 26-28 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030, though the nature of the Agreement is such that these targets are to be regularly reviewed.

When the Government’s 2017 Climate Policy Review was announced late last year, I highlighted that it was critical that the suite of Government policies that seek to address the challenge of climate change be fully examined to ensure the policy levers of Government work cohesively to achieve our national objectives.

I said this in the context of NFF’s view that climate change poses a significant challenge for Australian farmers and, that as a nation, we must act to ensure that our economy is well placed to efficiently reduce our national greenhouse gas emissions profile both now and in the future.

The importance of cohesive, stable and scalable policy can’t be understated.

I’m sure I share the same disappointment as many Australians that so much of discourse of the 2017 Climate Policy Review – and in parallel the Chief Scientist’s Review of the National Electricity Market – has thus far largely been all about politics and not really about policy.

Good policy making and constructive politics are rare commodities, but history has shown us that when the two align our nation can do great things and be great things.
Fiona Simson, President, NFF
Fiona Simson, President, NFF presenting to the Carbon Market Institute Emissions Reduction Summit. * Photo Clint Jasper

We all have a responsibility to find sensible common ground.  For those in Government this means building the evidence base for sound policy, as policy without evidence is ideology.  It also means showing genuine leadership and taking those few brave steps ahead of your pack.

For those in politics and not in Government it means not playing political football.  It means withstanding the temptation of the exposed jugular.  It means also showing leadership and working constructively with Government to find the common ground policy settings – brick by brick, policy by policy.

And for those of us that are in positions to influence both policy making and politics – it’s about providing the evidence and input, it’s about helping to find solutions and a pathway through.  Today the National Farmers’ Federation will lodge its submission to the 2017 Climate Review.  In the submission, we provide the evidence and policy measures that will facilitate the ag sector’s contribution to our national emissions reduction task, while maintaining our international competitiveness and allowing us to reach our potential to be a $100 billion industry by 2030.  

The key planks of our submission to the review are:

  • Government needs to provide policy stability for the electricity generation sector by adopting a market-based policy approach that enables technologies to compete on their merits.
  • the need to incentivise energy productivity on farm by providing grants or rebates for on-farm energy efficiency audits, rebates for capital upgrades, or taxation provisions for the accelerated depreciation of energy efficient equipment.
  • Rather than penalise, recognise and reward farmers for sequestering carbon in native vegetation and at the same time reward them for delivering biodiversity and other environmental services to the Australian community.
  • Take action to unlock the full carbon potential of Australian farms, by improving the design of carbon offset markets to make them more accessible and more attractive for farmers.
  • Encourage investment in agriculture research, development and extension of climate smart practices and technologies that concurrently reduce emissions and improve productivity and profitability.  These will be adopted by farmers as it makes business sense to do so.

The agriculture sector is a source of strength in the Australian economy, positioned to capitalise on growing global demand for safe, high quality food and fibre over coming decades.  Stable climate and energy policies can only be achieved by multi-partisan agreement.  Australian farmers, businesses, industry and communities expect political leadership on this issue, and we expect that our futures be more than the pawns of politics.  

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