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Carbon capture opportunity for Australian farmers

Australian farmers play a crucial role in determining Australia’s climate future. The wellbeing of the Australian agriculture sector is fundamentally linked to the wellbeing of the environment. With a lack of action from the government, many Australian farmers are shouldering the challenge of taking #RealClimateAction.  

Emissions in agriculture 

According to the Snapshot of Australian Agriculture 2021 report, 55 per cent of land in Australia is used for agricultural purposes, and agriculture represents 11 per cent of Australia’s total GDP from exports. 

The Quarterly Update of the National Greenhouse Gas Inventory reports Australia’s latest greenhouse gas emissions December 2020 report showed that Agricultural operations made up 14.6 per cent of Australia’s total emission production. This places farming as Australia’s fourth-largest contributor to carbon emissions, behind transport, stationary energy and electricity. 

The combination of high land use and high emission means that Australian farmers are perfectly positioned to respond to emissions reduction without governmental direction—a position the industry is taking advantage of. 

Real climate action

The National Farmers Federation (NFF) have called upon farmers to take local action to combat climate change through their #RealClimateAction initiative. Agriculturalists who have taken up the challenge have shared their stories of why and how they respond to reducing on-farm emissions. 

Here are two such stories. 

Dan Fox

Dan Fox is a grain grower from Marrar, New South Wales. For Dan, responding to climate change was a no brainer. For him, the improvement of soil health was the key. Improving soil quality is thought to improve yields while reducing the number of harsh chemicals and water needed.

“Our mothers and grandmothers taught us to put straw mulch on the home gardens to protect the soil from the sun, keep the weeds out and keep the moisture in,” Dan said.

“That’s exactly what we are aiming to do with our system, except our garden is the big paddocks on the outside of the house yard,” 

This approach limits water and chemical use; it also sequesters carbon from the atmosphere into the soil. 

On the Fox farm investing in new technology and machinery meant they could change farming practices to methods focused on moisture retention and building carbon levels below the ground. 

Dan said, “With minimal disturbance and the ability to sow a crop in one pass of a paddock whilst retaining our stubble from previous seasons, we can look after the biology in the soil which helps build organic carbon levels in our soils.”

Tess Butler

Tess Butler is a Dairy Farmer from Moe, Victoria. Tess saw the agricultural sector’s high impact on the environment and witnessed first-hand the necessity of changing traditional farming practices to protect the environment. 

Tess and her partner, Ben’s farm was severely affected by 2019/2020’s black summer fires. They lost their home, pasture, fencing and their dairy herd were affected by burns. 

“I’m keenly interested in social issues. I love the outdoors, the land we work, and I want to preserve it for as long as possible,” Tess said.

“Over the last decade, the effects of climate change we’ve seen really worry me. The fire seasons in the south-east of Australia were probably a bit of a catalyst for me. It will make a sizeable difference if we can farm more environmentally friendly,”

The couple has invested in and focused on how technology can help reduce their farm’s emissions. They have implemented rotational grazing systems meaning cows utilise feed more efficiently. 

Manure management has also helped build carbon in their soils, improving quality and removing carbon from the atmosphere. An awareness of the power farmers have in climate change mitigation has shaped Tess and Ben’s farming practices. 

“It’s really changed how we’ve farmed over the past five years; it’s something I’ve really pushed for.”

More stories can be found here.

Technological revolution 

There are many ways emissions can be reduced. These include: 

  • Energy efficiency – actions that reduce consumption of electricity and natural gas
  • Renewable energy – electricity generation that displaces thermal electricity at household, commercial, industrial and power station scale 
  • Emissions avoidance – actions that avoid emissions, including methane destruction
  • Carbon sequestration – actions that sequester and store carbon

 A technological revolution is taking place on Australian farms. Technology and practices in the agricultural sector that incentivise and simplify carbon sequestration is critical in the fight against climate change. 

Carbon sequestration is when carbon is removed from the atmosphere and stored in soil, vegetation or organic matter. Farmer’s land use and access mean they are well-positioned to be the key actors in carbon sequestration. 

Recognising this, the Emissions Reduction Fund is a carbon offset scheme developed to benefit farmers and the environment directly. The Emissions Reduction Fund allows farmers to earn Australian carbon credit units (carbon credits) for sequestering carbon. These credits are then tradable on the carbon market to organisations that need to reduce their emissions. 

This way, farmers can earn money and diversify their income by implementing gold-standard environment practices.  

Australia’s Carbon Marketplace is one of the current platforms on which Australian carbon credit units can be bought and sold. 

Australian Carbon Exchange

Australia’s Clean Energy Regulator announced on 13th September plans to deliver a centralised Australian carbon exchange. 

This exchange will operate similarly to a stock exchange, allowing all carbon credits to be traded at a market equilibrium price in one marketplace. This announcement means carbon trading will become less complex and more profitable than ever. The aim of the exchange is “Streamlining private sector action to support emissions reductions”.

The central marketplace is hoped to deliver transparency of Australia’s carbon market while decreasing costs for traders. The Clean Energy Regulator states, “Facilitating a carbon exchange and increasing the supply of ACCUs will support businesses and governments in delivering against their voluntary emission reduction commitments at the lowest possible cost.” 

Expressions of interest are now open for the Australian carbon exchange, and it is expected to be launched by 2023. There is no time like now for Australian farmers to take advantage of the financial incentives to help the planet. 

Read more: Australian agriculture looking forward to a profitable year

Read more: How carbon tariffs will affect Australian businesses: Ai Group report

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