Australia’s peak farm body has thrown its weight behind an aspirational economy-wide target of net carbon zero emissions by 2050.
National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) members voted in favour of the landmark policy, which includes strict caveats regarding fair implementation and economic viability.
NFF president Fiona Simson said the strengthening of the NFF’s climate goals was a strong reminder of the role farmers already played in tackling emissions.
“Australia’s farm sector continues to be a leader in reducing greenhouse gas emissions,” Ms Simson said.
“In the past decade, agriculture is a leading sector in consistently reducing its emissions intensity and net emissions within the Australian economy.”
However, despite progress in the farm sector, Ms Simson warned the goal of become carbon neutral by 2050 would be just an aspiration without significant policy change.
“We need to equip farmers with far better tools for evaluating and reporting on individual business emissions,” Ms Simson said.
“This will require new investment in research and development, so we have more robust baseline information, new pathways to reduce emissions, and fewer barriers to participation in carbon markets.”
Peter Holding, a third-generation farmer from Harden in southern NSW, is glad to see the “broad church” of agriculture aligned on climate change, the effects of which he has already felt first hand.
“You wouldn’t normally grow a barley around here because you can always get a wheat crop off, but we’ve started growing barley because it stands up to the dry better,” Mr Holding said.
“Farmers are adapting as fast as they can, but I don’t believe there is any chance we can adapt our way out of this.
“All adaptation in ag is important, because it gives us a window in which to make change. But we’re using up the window and there’s no change.”
Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack was asked if the NFF’s new policy, which stands in stark contrast to the government’s, meant the Nationals were out of touch with regional voters on climate change action.
“We took all our policies to the last election in May 2019 and were re-elected to deliver them,” Mr McCormack said.
“Regional Australians voted to send Nationals’ MP back to Canberra in every single seat we held before that poll.
“That’s because regional Australians trust the Nationals to fight for the issues important to them, including our policies to push down power prices, as well as our policies to meet and beat our international obligations on decreasing emissions.”
In February, Mr McCormack expressed scepticism about NFF’s 2030 target to trending towards carbon neutrality, however didn’t respond to questions asking if he felt the same way about the 2050 target.
“The government is focused on ensuring we have affordable and reliable power, not only for families and their households, but also for farmers, for factories and for all Australian industries,” he said.
Earlier this year, Labor announced its policy of carbon neutrality by 2050.
Labor’s climate change spokesman Mark Butler said farmers were on the front line in the battle against climate change, facing punishing droughts and extended fire seasons.
“Our agriculture sector is amongst the most adversely affected by changing and radical weather patterns, and longer, hotter, dry spells,” Mr Butler said.
“Farmers know how to best protect their property and will seize the opportunities that come with achieving net zero emissions by 2050.
“The NFF’s position is consistent with advice from the CSIRO who have said adopting net zero emissions will lead to stronger economic growth, higher real wages, and lower energy bills.”