Ground-up action will bring needed gains

Climate action to help farmers now is key to long term success


Opinion
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While governments squabble over arbitrary emissions targets, farmers need practical solutions on farm. But can our politicians get their heads around how to develop gains at both ends at the same time?

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It seems like only yesterday the Kevin 07 Labor campaign was pushing its platform of climate reform. 

While it was ultimately doomed – largely due to the party’s inwardly destructive behaviour that also undermined the now former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s hold for power – here we are over a decade later and little has changed, both with climate policy, as well as the nature of our political landscape.

One key problem with the climate debate is it’s been all about political maneuvering. The emissions targets mean very little in terms of actual outcomes for farmers and are more of a scale of where a government sits relative to the political left or right.

Even if we seriously committed to an ambitious carbon reduction target, it would do little to address the immediate concerns of crop and pasture production, soil moisture and water storage levels.

Australia’s Emissions Reduction Fund has made a start in rewarding farmers for their role in meeting emissions targets, and has demonstrated farmers can do more if rewarded appropriately.

However, it’s focus is largely on emissions. Without more measures that build resilience into farming systems now, we might hit these arbitrary targets, but will continue to send farmers broke in the process.

One country that recognises this is China. While remaining in the Paris Climate Agreement to stay politically engaged, it is also busy getting on with real solutions in its own backyard.

An interesting development to come out of China’s Chongqing Jiaotong University last year was a cellulose paste claimed to be able to convert sand to soil – and the implications are big.

In the first six months China has used this product to convert 200 hectares of sand dunes in the Gobi Desert into productive, food and fibre growing fields.

It has since set an ambitious target of reclaiming 50 per cent of its deserts into farmland and forest in the next three years, and there’s also interest in the method from the United Arab Emirates.

The National Farmers’ Federation’s push for more projects in areas like soil carbon capture and grazing management are key initiatives here that could bring tangible on-the-ground change for farmers while also reducing emissions.

If the government got serious about this, it might just win it back some much needed votes in rural Australia.

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