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Climate Institute wants changes in agriculture

Policy action, not exemptions, are needed to ensure Australian agriculture manages the risks of climate change with maximum returns, according to the Climate Institute.

The independent research organisation released a paper called Towards Climate – Friendly Farming – on Wednesday, outlining a case for stronger climate action in agriculture, including new income and development opportunities in rural Australia, and policy proposals to reduce emissions.

The Climate Institute chair Mark Wootton says Australia’s primary producers are on the frontline of climate change.

“The science shows climate change driving more frequent and intense droughts, and will, without early action, all but wipe out our major food bowls by the end of the century,” he said.

“Prudent risk management means preparing farmers for both the impacts of climate change and for their inevitable exposure to climate policies – whether that’s emissions trading, or some alternative such as a levy or regulation, or a mix of these.”

According to the Climate Institute, Australian agriculture is directly responsible for 15% of national emissions.

“That’s significantly more than the contribution of the US, European or Canadian farm sectors to their emissions load — 7%, 9% and 10% respectively, and when land-clearing and poor management of savannah burning are counted, Australian agriculture’s part jumps to over 25%,” Wootton said.

The Towards Climate-Friendly Farming paper makes several proposals, including:

• From 2011, a new national 'Decade of Climate-Friendly Farming' program and strategy, complete with resource support for farmers and time-bound targets for action.

• An amendment to the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme legislation to extend current “green carbon” forestry provisions and allow landholders to be rewarded for any credible, measurable and internationally compliant sequestration activity

• Ensuring land clearing is properly regulated and priced, and carbon forestry benefits landscapes.

• No later than 2013, the introduction of a package of measures — either emissions trading or alternative measures such as levies and regulations, or a mix of these — to send strong and clear price signals to agriculture to invest, innovate, and contribute its share to national emissions targets.

The discussion paper is available for viewing online at www.climateinstitute.org.au

Submissions to the discussion paper close on November 13 2009 and should be addressed to Corey Watts, Regional Projects Manager,

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