Back high emissions targets

Back high emissions targets and lucrative stewardship programs

Peter Mailler is a third generation grain and cattle farmer on the NSW/Queensland border.

Peter Mailler is a third generation grain and cattle farmer on the NSW/Queensland border.


The Gauge: Grain farmer Peter Mailler says a high emissions reduction target is the key to compelling adequate funding for agricultural stewardship programs.


Anthony Albanese has announced that the ALP will pursue a net zero emissions target by 2050 in an attempt to establish some climate credential in the electorate.

The agricultural sector has an opportunity to capitalise on this announcement, but not the way you might think.

The Howard government was the first to exploit farmers to meet the nation's emissions reduction obligations under the Kyoto protocol.

The Coalition government leveraged GST distribution negotiations which resulted in the introduction of draconian state vegetation management laws particularly in NSW and Queensland.

Australia grossly exceeded its Kyoto targets and agriculture is still the only sector of the economy to have significantly reduced its emissions.

Farmers met, and are still meeting, the nation's emission reduction obligation at significant cost and without reward or compensation.

Related reading: Barnaby Joyce and Joel Fitzgibbon fiery climate clash in parliament halls

Based on that experience, it is understandable that many people in the bush would feel threatened by the ALP's political grandstanding on climate, but I see a high emissions reduction target (regardless of who proposes it) as a cornerstone of future economic, environmental and social stability in the bush.

Sadly, the response to suggestions of high net emissions reductions from many politicians and indeed many farm leaders has been negative - so far. It is entirely the wrong response.

In the face of overwhelming scientific evidence and consensus around climate and the flow on impacts to social and economic viability of rural and regional communities, it is past time for conversations about climate to be plainly honest and without a political agenda.

The cost of inaction on climate is now higher than the cost of action.

As a large land based country, the effects of climate change will be amplified here.

Australia's temperature rises will be significantly greater than the global average rises. Simply, we have more to lose than many other countries if global climate change is not addressed appropriately.

If rural and regional Australians are not proactive in the pursuit of solutions to the problems the entire population faces, then someone else will control the mechanisms of climate mitigation.

If we continue to reject necessary national reductions targets, we arm those who would force them on us with a justification to ignore our input on how net emissions reductions should be achieved.

We will again be forced to deliver without compensation and we simply can't bear that load.

There is a profound opportunity for rural and regional Australia in responding proactively to the challenges of climate change and simultaneously preserving and enhancing the natural capital that underpins our agricultural systems.

It is essential that we do.

There is an increasingly strong justification for market based systems to genuinely and adequately reward carbon sequestration and additionally reward biodiversity stewardship.

These are two key issues that society is increasingly demanding from farmers anyway.

We have seen several half-hearted political attempts at this through the Carbon Farming Initiative/Emissions Reduction Fund and the more recent Agriculture Biodiversity Stewardship Program.

While possibly well intentioned, these programs have been under resourced to the point where they can't deliver what is needed to farmers or the broader community.

Some politicians and ag leaders talk a big game on environmental stewardship.

They argue that there should be commercial frameworks for stewardship programs.

Unfortunately they undermine their position when they reject a high emissions reduction target because the high emissions reduction target is the key to compelling adequate funding for those same stewardship programs.

Australian agricultural leaders must engage proactively now with all sides of politics and advocate fiercely for both a high emissions reduction target and the necessary resources for the agricultural sector to deliver it for the nation by underwriting genuine commercial incentives.

Stewardship initiatives and resources must be coordinated at all levels of government and incorporated into a single market based program rewarding both carbon and biodiversity outcomes on farms across the nation.

There is an old saying that you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink.

A high emissions reduction target is a key trough that is right in front of us and it will be more rewarding for rural and regional Australia if we jam our muzzle in and start drinking.

- Peter Mailler is a third generation grain and cattle farmer on the NSW/Queensland border.

The story Back high emissions targets first appeared on Farm Online.


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