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Emissions trading: where do farmers stand?

1 June 2007

WITH the Australian Government poised to unveil its carbon emissions trading scheme to cover all industries, the National Farmers' Federation (NFF) is eagerly awaiting news on how agriculture – a sector with more at stake than most – fares under the new regime.

"Managing over 60% of this country's landmass, farmers know that perhaps the biggest threat to Australia’s agricultural production base – and its capacity to meet the day-to-day needs of the Australian community – is increased global climate change," NFF CEO Ben Fargher said.

"Australian farmers have a huge stake in climate change and emissions trading issues. While we have been frustrated by the Government's exclusion of farmers from its Emissions Trading Taskforce, Australian farmers have already demonstrated the experience and 'on the ground' knowledge essential to making any national effort to reduce greenhouse emissions work.

"Australia's primary industries have already slashed greenhouse gas emissions by 40% over the past 15 years, mainly on the back of improvements to agricultural practice. In fact, Australian greenhouse gas emissions are only 'on track' to meet Kyoto targets as a result of farmers halting land clearing and planting over 20 million trees-a-year, solely for conservation purposes.

"However, as things stand, we're still in the dark as to how agriculture will be, or can be, positioned to do more in meeting Australia's commitment to the climate change challenge.

"Logically, any national emissions trading scheme must recognise the contribution agriculture has already made in reducing Australia's greenhouse emissions.

"It is only fair that emission trading rules recognise farm-scale re-vegetation since 1990 as an 'emissions off-set' – we see this as a minimum.

"We have already warned the Prime Ministerial Task Group on Emissions Trading of the need for 'considerable care' to ensure any scheme takes account of outcomes that are environmentally effective and sustainable, balanced against economic and social implications.

"Thus, initially, farmers should not be direct participants in a national emissions trading scheme. Rather, Australian farmers have a key role to play in marketing eligible 'off-set credits' – enabling those in the trading scheme to achieve net reductions in their annual emissions.

"So, agriculture must be factored in – through greenhouse emissions attributed to the sector and its capacity to sequester or abate emissions.

"To do this, farmers need a seat at the table in developing the way the scheme is set up and the rules that apply... these will determine agriculture's role.

"Any strategy to reduce greenhouse emissions should not rely solely on emissions trading, but must involve significant investment in research to develop new low-carbon technologies to reduce greenhouse emissions.

"Research is vital to identify ways farmers can sequester or abate emissions, and accurately measure them, coupled with a focus on enhancing farm productivity.

"It would be short-sighted and inequitable for the Government to commit to research and development in the stationary energy sector and not likewise acknowledge the needs and opportunities for agriculture in this area."

[ENDS]

Media Enquiries: Brett Heffernan on (02) 6273 3855 or 0408 448 250.

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