By MICHELLE SLATER
THE National Farmers Federation has been assured by the federal government that a new pledge to cut global methane emissions will not adversely affect Australia’s agriculture sector.
The federal government joined 122 countries last month by signing up to a voluntary global pledge to reduce methane emissions by 30 per cent by 2030.
The Climate Change Minister, Chris Bowen, said Australia was the 11th biggest methane emitter, and methane was responsible for 24 per cent of our overall emissions.
Mr Bowen promised that the pledge would not herald any new taxes or levies, after concerns were raised about a methane tax being imposed on cattle and sheep farmers in New Zealand.
NFF chief executive Tony Mahar said the pledge reinforced the agriculture sector’s commitment to sustainability and willingness to partner with governments to develop technology to cut methane.
Mr Mahar said he was assured it would not negatively affect farmers by imposing any reductions on production or livestock numbers.
“We understand some in our industry are concerned what impact this will have on farming businesses,” Mr Mahar said.
“We take these concerns seriously and have raised them with the federal government, receiving assurances farmers will not be adversely impacted by Australia signing the pledge.
“Australian agriculture cannot and will not tolerate interventions like the New Zealand or Netherlands governments are implementing which target and undermine agriculture’s productivity.”
The Farmers for Climate Action chief executive, Fiona Davis, welcomed the pledge but said pressure should also be placed on the oil and gas industries to cut methane.
Dr Davis said Australian farmers were already leading the way with reducing emissions and developing methane cutting technology such as asparagopsis feeds.
“Farm methane has been dropping while methane from the gas industry has been rising. The gas industry should not be allowed to unbalance the climate and threaten our food supply,” she said.
“Gas industry lobbyists cannot be allowed to continue pretending farming is the problem. Having a local food supply is not optional.”
But the move was not supported by the Australian Dairy Farmers president, Rick Gladigau, who said it was “ill-timed and ill-informed” as methane mitigation pathways were yet to be established.
Mr Gladigau said dairy had made its own 30 per cent greenhouse reductions targets by 2030, and the methane intensity of milk production declined by 40 per cent between 1980 and 2016.
However, he said feed additives to reduce methane were still in development.
“All the technologies being used by dairy are promising, but they will have limitations on their ability to reduce methane emissions from cows in dairy production systems,” Mr Gladigau said.
“In addition, implementing these interventions will take time, focus and, most importantly, investment that must be considered in any future policy setting.”