Wed. Aug 10th, 2022

Australia’s highest agricultural lobby will demand national MPs that the Scott Morrison government give farmers a dedicated income stream from collected carbon if the coalition lands a new mid-century emission reduction policy ahead of Cop26 in Glasgow.

The National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) will meet lawmakers largely on Monday as the Morrison government seeks an internal agreement on what new emission reduction policies Australia will mark ahead of the international climate conference in November.

In a statement ahead of Monday’s meeting with MPs, NFF President Fiona Simson said citizens should do a tough trade for agriculture. Simson suggested that the government should compensate landowners for land clearing rules that pre-dated the Kyoto period as a goodwill exercise.

The NFF was previously a strong opponent of emission reduction, as was Labor’s carbon price. But now – like many other major business organizations – the peak farm organization has changed tune.

The NFF supports an economy-wide pursuit of zero emissions by 2050, but with two conditions. It says that emission reduction must be economically viable and farmers must not be burdened by “unnecessary regulation”.

Morrison has been clear for months that he would like to land a net zero deal in time for Cop26, but some Queensland nationals are signaling fierce opposition.

In an attempt to persuade a majority of national party halls to accept a mid-century commitment, older government actors have signaled that agriculture is likely to be excluded from heavy lifting of reductions — but not from carbon-related income streams.

Resource Secretary Keith Pitt also said last week that the Liberal Party should consider being a lender and insurance last resort for fossil fuel projects struggling to get funding because banks are required by regulators to minimize carbon risk during the transition to low emissions – an initiative Pitt cost $ 250 billion.

Simson briefs MPs Monday with Georgie Somerset, president of Agforce Queensland. The NFF president claims that farmers in Queensland and New South Wales were previously ignorant victims of land clearing legislation “that removed their property rights without compensation”.

Simson stated that now was the time to “square the ledger” by allowing farmers income from the Emission Reduction Fund and from Australian CO2 credit values.

She argued that farmers should retain control of their asset. “The rights to use … collected carbon should be the responsibility of the landowner, not the government, or an international accounting mechanism that does not count profits”.

“Correcting this will go a long way in ensuring that farmers are enthusiastic participants and supporters of future emission reduction solutions,” Simson said.

Simson also stated that Australia’s path to achieving mid-century CO2 neutrality should not be falsified by a significant lock-in of productive farmland.

“The government must not expect leading agricultural land to be transformed into a massive carbon sink,” the NFF president said. “Farmers have a job to feed and clothe the world and to run the nation’s economy.”

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The NFF’s intervention in the government’s internal debate with high stakes follows a call from the Business Council of Australia (BCA) to the government to adopt a stronger medium-term emission reduction target ahead of Cop26.

Despite being a proposed target of a 45% reduction in emissions, Labor presented during the last federal election as “economic destruction” – the Business Council is now arguing for Australia that Australia can reduce emissions by 46 to 50% by 2030 against 2005 level.

BCA also supports a net promise.

It proposes a recast of the current protection mechanism to achieve this goal. But Energy and Emission Reduction Minister Angus Taylor told nine newspapers over the weekend that the proposal looked like a “carbon tax”.

A report by the think tank, Grattan Institute, published Sunday night, called for a greater political focus on CO2 offsets, including CO2 deposited in vegetation and soil. It argued that shifts would be crucial to achieving a net zero target and could be part of a low-cost climate policy, but should not be used as an excuse to delay cuts in emissions.

The Institute advised governments to better formulate the role of shifts in each climate policy, including any restrictions on their use, and to improve the integrity of offsetting systems by spending more on independent expert reviews.

It also called for rules to prevent double-counting of displacements produced in Australia but then used abroad and investment in research, development and implementation of technologies to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, such as direct air capture and storage of air and large-scale mineralization.

Tony Wood, Grattan’s director of energy and climate change programs, said offsetting would be required as emissions from some sources could not be easily eliminated or would become prohibitively expensive. But he said governments should take an “avoid emissions first” approach.

The federal government’s CO2 compensation system has been repeatedly criticized, including in a recent report by the Australian Conservation Foundation and the Australia Institute, which suggested that around one-fifth of the credits created through the emission reduction fund did not represent real cuts in CO2. The government recently approved a controversial plan to grant carbon credits to fossil fuel projects that use carbon capture and storage.

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