Farmers plead for ‘fair go’ in move towards net zero emissions

Australia’s farmers are making an impassioned plea for a fair go in the effort to achieve an economy-wide aspiration of net zero emissions by 2050.

Oct 11, 2021, updated Oct 11, 2021
National Farmers' Federation boss Fiona Simson (Photo: National Press Club).

National Farmers' Federation boss Fiona Simson (Photo: National Press Club).

For that to happen, there must be an economically viable pathway to neutrality while landholders need to be relieved of “unnecessary regulatory impediment”, says National Farmers Federation president Fiona Simson.

She and Agforce Queensland president Georgie Somerset are set to brief the federal Nationals party room, seeking a resolution to what she calls a “festering sore created by … statutory theft”.

“Farmers have been at the forefront of Australia’s efforts to meet climate change targets for decades, although not always knowingly,” Ms Simson said.

However in the 1990s and early 2000s, many became victims of land clearing legislation that removed their property rights without compensation.

“The outcome of this was that landholders, unknowingly and without support, made a major contribution to meeting, and it turns out, substantially over achieving on Kyoto commitment targets,” she said.

“A significant proportion of more 400 million tonnes of excess carbon sequestration was delivered through this process.

“If done today, landholders would be eligible to participate in the Emission Reduction Fund or a secondary carbon market and receive income for this activity, but not then.”

Simson says the scenario still hurts and it’s time to square the ledger.

While the federal government is under pressure to deliver a 2050 plan for net zero emissions before the world descends on Glasgow to talk climate change, Labor is yet to confirm what its interim target would be.

The Business Council of Australia, which represents the nation’s biggest companies, released an analysis on Saturday calling for 50 per cent emissions reduction by 2030.

Labor supports a net zero target by 2050 but says it will set a interim goal before the next federal election, which is due by May.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who is in negotiations with the Nationals on 2050, still hasn’t confirmed whether he will attend the United Nations climate change conference later this month.

Ms Simson says fixing farmers’ issues will go a long way to ensuring they become enthusiastic supporters of emission reductions solutions.

However she says they aren’t prepared to be the climate solution for other sectors.

“Government must not expect prime farm land to be converted to a massive carbon sink,” she said.

Meanwhile, the NFF is optimistic and constructive about the challenge ahead.

“For farmers that means building on what they have been doing for decades – low and no-till farming, adopting new technology for animal production and maintaining vegetation on farm.”

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