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Climate change threat must be tackled ‘head on’

5 February 2007

“THE threat of global climate change is potentially the biggest issue Australian agriculture has ever faced with reports of increasing seasonal variability and more extreme weather events,” National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) President David Crombie declared today in the wake of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Report, released over the weekend.

“The Australian farming sector is utterly dependent on weather conditions and any prolonged change in climatic patterns has the potential to plunge farmers, and the majority of Australia, into the realm of the unknown. Rather than throw our hands up in despair, the NFF is advocating direct and deliberate national engagement on the issue to dispel the myths, measure the realities and identify solutions.

“What is already apparent is the need to better position agriculture to manage resources in the context of a changing climate. On this, we cannot, and must not, wait. A vastly increased research effort is needed – sooner, rather than later – to enable all primary industries to plan, adapt and respond to greenhouse and climate change challenges… those of today and those predicted.

“There is already a plethora of information at the global and national levels, but that’s literally useless to the 130,000 farmers who occupy and manage 60% of Australia’s landmass. For climate change mitigation and adaptation to be possible, we must have relevant, regionally-based data to make long-term region-based farming decisions.

“Within agriculture we need to target research to identify new varieties, new management systems and measure our emissions. In short, we need to understand our outputs to identify existing and potential solutions in order to prioritise and manage programmes for improvement.

“Australia’s primary industries are in the vanguard of a massive carbon emission turnaround – already reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 40% over the past 15 years.

“That’s a fantastic result, but we can do more. What we need is accurate regional data and more targetted research to develop the tools for on-farm solutions that deliver sound environmental outcomes in the face of changing climatic circumstances.”

The NFF is focused on natural resource management and sustainability. Over the last 12 months, the NFF has increased its focused on climate change, particularly the issues of emissions trading, adaptation, mitigation, research and development and education and awareness. Further, the NFF has committed to being an active member of the Greenhouse Challenge Plus Programme, established an NFF Climate Change Working Group and is now engaged with the Australian Business Roundtable on Climate Change.

“The current forecasts for climate change are alarming, but it’s important to realise the future is not already written,” Mr Crombie noted. “However, NFF’s assessment is that the current programmes and resources to address climate change are inadequate and need to be cranked up, with farmers included as a part of the solution.”

“This is particularly the case in building research capacity to develop the policies and commit the resources that can deliver ‘on the ground’ outcomes in a timeframe that provides certainty and security moving forward. A renewed government commitment is required in all these areas.

“We call upon the Australian Government to realise the significant contribution agriculture stands to make in meeting the challenge of climate change. This is not simply an issue for the mining, stationary energy and transport sectors, as the Government’s leaning to-date suggests is their sole approach.

“The Government needs to make a significant investment in all our futures and must include agriculture as a fundamental part of any genuine tilt at a climate change solution – anything less will be to the cost of generations to come.”

[ENDS]

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