POSITIVE POLICY

Carbon Capture on the Land

The farming sector has made the most substantial contribution to emissions reduction in Australia over the past twenty years, largely through the land clearing restrictions placed on the sector at State level as well as the successful Carbon Farming Initiative implemented by the last Labor Government.

It is in the national interest that the sector be able to exploit the new, enhanced export opportunities in a way that is consistent with responsible land management. The land and agricultural sector represent Australia’s largest opportunity in coming years to sequester carbon pollution (through soil carbon methods, re-afforestation, avoided deforestation and more).

That’s why a Shorten Labor Government will:

  • Work with stakeholders to develop an appropriate “trigger” in federal environmental protection laws to cover Australia’s national and international commitments around climate change;
  • Require the adoption of consistent reporting of land and tree clearing across States and the Commonwealth;
  • Reinvigorate the COAG National Vegetation Management Framework; and
  • Reinvigorate the Carbon Farming Initiative.

Climate change will severely impact on those families, farmers and businesses that depend on natural resources, like agriculture and forestry for their livelihoods.

That’s because climate change means longer droughts in parts of Australia estimated, from 2020, to cost Australia $7.3 billion annually - reducing GDP by 1 per cent, per annum, broken by more damaging floods, more frequent bushfires and more severe storms.

Australia achieved our first commitment under the Kyoto Protocol to restrain carbon pollution (to 108% of 1990 levels by 2012) because of a significant reduction in land sector emissions. These are known technically as “land use, land use change and forestry” or LULUCF. The Kyoto Protocol only set binding targets for pollution reduction on developed nations, and most of them had stopped land clearing a long time ago. Australia lobbied hard to allow reductions in land sector emissions to be counted within the Kyoto Protocol. As a result, that provision is generally described as the “Australia clause”.

Many other developed nations resent such emissions changes being counted, but it was critically important to Australia’s achievement of our first Kyoto commitment. Excluding LULUCF (which many nations do in counting emissions), Australia’s emissions averaged 130% of 1990 levels (rather than 103%) over the first commitment period (2008-2012).

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