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We know the climate risks, now for solutions: farmers

7 July 2008

“THE Garnaut Report and, now, the CSIRO and Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) have reinforced what we already knew... there are threats to Australia’s agricultural production due to climate risks,” National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) President David Crombie said today.

“Farmers have long known the risks and have continually stressed the need to proactively adapt and mitigate climate affects, through research and development, new technology and modern farming techniques. Managing climate risk has been hallmark of farming’s tradition and, with the right tools, will continue to be in the future.

“The Government’s announcement today of $46.2 million to reduce greenhouse pollution, better soil management and adapt to a changing climate, is a sensible first instalment – but we need to do more to provide farmers with practical, on-the-ground options and tools to adapt.

“Professor Garnaut notes: “... food is an essential consumer good and climate change will most likely make food production more difficult. Producers will need to adapt to climate change and this adaptation will require significant additional resources”. This highlights the critical need for research to underpin agriculture’s adaption to climate change and in reducing net emissions.

“But, more broadly, Australia must not take an ‘at any cost’ approach to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, particularly as there is no certainty about the contribution to be made by other nations – especially our trade competitors. Garnaut says the solution needs to be global. We agree. And, while we can take a leadership role in driving global action, we must be mindful that Australia is responsible for less than 1.5% of global emissions – and our economy has a breaking point.

“Our response, therefore, needs to be measured and commensurate with that reality. Australia’s farm base is among the most efficient, competitive and low-emitting in the world. If we reduce production here, the bizarre outcome could see global demand shift to high-emitting countries.

“We risk a disproportionate impact on Australian food production. Our farm sector is responsible for 12% of GDP, 1.6 million jobs, $30 billion in exports and 93% of our daily domestic food supply, and it could be absolutely devastated if the ETS or transitional policies aren’t geared to account for agriculture’s ability to sequester carbon in soils and crops, not just trees.

“We need to invest today to safeguard the future. But, if domestic policies hurt farmers, they won’t be unable to combat climate change, resulting in a reliance on imported food and higher food prices.

“Garnaut spells out that agriculture cannot be covered by an ETS at this time. We recognise the obstacles and agree. Importantly, Garnaut does not suggest an arbitrary timeframe for coverage, but draws attention to the major problems regarding measuring agricultural emissions and the costs associated in monitoring and verifying those emissions across some 155,000 Australian farms.

“However, he concludes that we must examine alternatives that can deliver greater reductions to emissions, at lower costs. These need to be incentive-driven and developed in conjunction with the farm sector. Farmers can and will adapt to climate change provided they have access to the right research and development, targeted to new technologies and that enable them to make informed decisions.”

[ENDS]

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

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