Review on carbon goal

THE grass-fed cattle industry’s peak representative body has doubled down on its push for a review of the industry’s goal to become carbon neutral by 2030, the online site Beef Central has reported.

In one of its biggest policy announcements since forming last year, Cattle Australia has been calling for the industry to change its goal from carbon neutral to climate neutral.

The push mostly came off the back of a CSIRO report by Dr Brad Ridoutt, which suggested that climate neutral was a more fitting target for the industry – and that the industry was almost at a point where it is no longer adding to global warming.

The main argument is over the reporting metric, with carbon neutral using the GWP 100 metric, which does not account for the short-lived nature of methane from livestock. CA is pushing for the use of metrics that are more focused on warming effect than emissions.

CA is not the only agricultural lobby group to be pushing for a move away from carbon-based goals, with Beef + Lamb NZ and America’s National Cattleman’s Beef Association pushing towards climate neutral.

CA board director, Adam Coffey said the reporting metrics had come on the group’s radar again after meeting with federal government to discuss a “net zero plan” for agriculture.

“It’s alarming to see commentary in the discussion paper around agricultural emissions ‘increasing as a percentage of annual national emissions as the energy sector transitions to renewable sources,” he said.

“If some two thirds of agricultural emissions are attributed to enteric methane emissions from livestock which are being vastly overstated then where is the level playing field?

“If the Paris Agreement is a temperature target designed to limit warming then why are enteric methane emissions measured in a cumulative, one-way fashion which completely ignores our ability to recapture emissions in our vast natural and well managed landscapes?”

While CA’s position on CN30 is clear, there has been little movement on a review of the target.

Meat & Livestock Australia Managing Director, Jason Strong penned an op-ed outlining MLA’s position on it.

Asked if MLA was required to act on direction from CA, an MLA spokesperson said: “We consult widely to guide our research investment decisions, including on CN30 and climate neutrality. This consultation includes the peak councils, regional advisory committees, producers, taskforces, and many other stakeholders.”

“It shouldn’t be a debate about climate neutral versus carbon neutral – in fact, climate neutrality is an important component of carbon neutrality.”

MLA’s pursuit of CN30 is part of the “Red Meat 2030” strategic plan which has been endorsed by six peak industry bodies – including CA.The Red Meat Advisory Council is the custodian of red meat 2030.

Asked what would need to happen for CA’s position to be reflected in Red Meat 2030, RMAC Chair John McKillop said: “RMAC works closely and collaboratively with all member Peak Industry Councils and the three red meat Rural Research and Development Corporations, to assess our performance and ensure our strategic plan remains fit for purpose.”

“When Red Meat 2030 was first launched in 2019 we knew this would be an ambitious and challenging plan that would need to evolve over time.

“Industry’s focus remains on reducing its emissions while not impeding our ability to feed the world, and to continue the trajectory of ever-increasing sustainability. The progress we have made to date, irrespective of the metric used is nothing short of spectacular. The industry, through MLA, reports our industry’s emissions using GWP100, GWP* and net methane, and will continue to do so.

“RMAC regularly facilitates discussions with the Peak Industry Councils to identify opportunities to build on our strategic plan and to support our pathways to achieving our shared vision of doubling the value of Australian red meat sales by 2030,” said Mr McKillop.

Dr Ridoutt’s report describes “climate neutrality” as a target based on IPCC science and aligned with the goal of the Paris Agreement, involving the management of emissions to achieve climate stabilisation.

It says climate neutrality acknowledges that different targets are needed for greenhouse gases with different atmospheric lifetimes.

For methane, which has a short atmospheric lifetime, a goal of modestly declining emissions trajectory is consistent with climate stabilisation, the report states.

The project considered a range of interventions to reduce emissions and sequester carbon for their potential to help the industry achieve a goal of climate neutrality by 2030.

These included feed additives, forage crops, breeding for lower methane and improved herd/flock management, along with a number of vegetation management interventions including tree planting on farm (such as the Integration of shade and shelterbelts in southern Australia) soil carbon storage and savannah burning management.

A key point from the report is that the industry can continue to grow production while aligning with climate goals.

The report concluded that climate neutrality appears “realistically achievable” for the Australian red meat industry by 2026. Additionally, the goal was possible for the beef cattle and sheep meat sectors individually.

Gippsland Farmer

The Gippsland Farmer is a monthly agricultural newspaper reporting on rural news and distributed FREE and direct to an area covering from Cann River through to South Gippsland. For more than 40 years Gippsland Farmer has reported on a range of issues and industries including dairy, beef, vegetables, sheep, goats, poultry, organic farming, and viticulture.