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Kyoto rules must change if farmers are to contribute

2 July 2008

THE National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) is calling on the Australian Government to actively petition for new accounting rules under the Kyoto Protocol to ensure agriculture’s sequestration of carbon is acknowledged.

“The Joint Standing Committee on Treaties’ examination of the rules under the new Kyoto Protocol, and how they affect Australia, is timely,” NFF President David Crombie said. “A full and sober analysis of how Australia will be impacted is essential.

“Australian farmers support an appropriately designed Emission Trading Scheme (ETS) as the most economically responsible way of dealing with climate change. Yet, Australia needs to make doubly-sure when signing-up that we do not carry a disproportionate load.

“We already know that the current Kyoto pact fails to adequately account for the ‘life cycle’ of agricultural emissions. That is, while farming’s emissions are counted, the provisions to acknowledge our sequestration are completely insufficient.

“We also acknowledge that agriculture cannot be initially included in an ETS, but transitional policies to mitigate agricultural emissions are on the table. As such, we need to recognise sequestration – through soils, crops and trees – due to our on-farm systems.

“A key to reaping the benefits of agriculture’s opportunities under the Kyoto rules for Cropland and Grazing Land Management practices that reduce emissions is de-linking these from natural causes of emissions, such as droughts and bushfires, which are beyond anyone’s control.

“In effect, this linkage (under Article 3.4 of the Kyoto Protocol) is unrealistic and would see Australia bear disproportionate risks, to the extent that Australia would not sign-up to that particular clause. However, it would also mean we get no recognition for our world-renowned low emission and environmentally sustainable farm systems.

“As a result, the current Kyoto accounting rules emphasise reforestation as the primary tool for sequestering carbon. Under this rigid and short-sighted framework, agriculture’s enormous sequestration capacity goes untapped.

“As the need for food production grows exponentially, we must ensure farming is not hamstrung in the process. The Kyoto accounting rules need to accommodate the unique characteristics and needs of agriculture, otherwise our future contribution will be in serious jeopardy.

“Not only would agriculture – with its benefits for off-setting carbon emissions – be carved out of the national and international pool, the costs imposed by such a scheme would likely see farmers forced to reduce food production. Neither affect is in anyone’s interests.

“So it is imperative that the international rules dictating Australia’s ETS – determining domestic climate change policy and carbon markets to ensure compliance with the international policy regime and a future global carbon market – take full and reasonable account of Australia’s needs.

“As Australian farmers have already demonstrated, we can make a major contribution to reducing Australia’s, and the world’s, carbon footprint. Our farmers have been in the vanguard, leading the reduction of carbon emissions by 40% over 1990-2006 – that’s a record second to none. And, we can do more… but only if the rules appropriately reflect agriculture’s contribution.”

The NFF will be lodging a submission to the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties’ review of the Kyoto Protocol to highlight the shortcomings of the current rules for Australia.

[ENDS]

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

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