Supporting sustainability

AUSTRALIA has backed the resolution on sustainable agriculture, resilient food systems and climate action passed at the COP28 climate conference in Dubai.

Federal Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Murray Watt, said the endorsement supported long-standing industry leadership on sustainable agriculture.

“Australian agriculture has a proud track record of sustainable farming, and many farming groups are working towards ambitious emissions targets they’ve set for themselves, finally with a federal government at their side,” he said.

“The Emirates Declaration is a commitment to scale-up adaptation and resilience activities across the agriculture sector, which is important because Australian farmers face all sorts of challenges made worse by climate change, including drought and increased natural disasters.

“The declaration aims to maximise the climate and environmental benefits associated with agriculture and food systems.

“And it will deepen ties with valued trading partners across the globe – countries who are increasingly demanding strong sustainability credentials for food and fibre imports.”

The message, spearheaded by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and its partners at COP28, was: “Agrifood systems solutions are climate solutions and increased collaboration and finance are needed if the world is to achieve the Paris Agreement and the Sustainable Development Goals.”

“It is imperative to chart pathways to lower the greenhouse gas emissions produced by the world’s livestock systems in the face of a growing global population, and a projected 20 per cent increase in demand for terrestrial animal products by 2050.”

“Pathways towards lower emissions – a global assessment of the greenhouse gas emissions and mitigation options from livestock agrifood systems,” Beef Central reported.

“Beyond evaluating baseline emissions, this report offers estimations of future emissions under scenarios of increased production and outlines pathways to reduce emissions through the application of well-established best practices in animal management.

“It clearly demonstrates that ambitious and innovative programmes and wide-ranging interventions have the potential to bend the emissions curve while production grows,” said FAO Deputy Director-General Maria Helena Semedo.

“Solutions such as improving animal health, breeding practices, reducing food loss and waste, and directly targeting GHG emissions have the potential to provide multiple benefits for people and the planet, but they require investments in the sector to narrow efficiency gaps, while meeting an increased global demand for animal protein,” she added, noting that interventions must be site specific, facilitate farmers’ access to finance and services to enable them to implement tailored interventions.

The report, subject to a double-blind peer review process involving world experts, outlines several pathways affecting both the supply and demand sides for livestock sectors, which, if adopted collectively, could address the environmental impacts and promote sustainability.

“While there is no universal solution and more work is needed to understand the barriers to implementing and upscaling these interventions, enhancing productivity and production efficiency across the entire value chain is the most promising way to mitigate and reduce livestock emissions,” the report said.

Investing in sustainable farming practices

MINISTER Watt said the COP 28 statement was consistent with the National Statement on Climate Change and Agriculture endorsed by all Australian agriculture ministers in July this year.

“The Albanese government is also investing in new technology and help for farmers to adopt even more sustainable practices, and has recently begun consultation on Australia’s first agriculture and land sector plan for reducing emissions,” he said.

The National Farmers’ Federation welcomed the announcement, saying the declaration stresses the importance of the agriculture sector as a major stakeholder in the debate, and reaffirms farmers being at the core of decisions made that affect them.

“The NFF recognises the fundamental challenge that adaptation and emissions reduction represent to our industry,” said NFF’s president, David Jochinke, who attended COP28 in Dubai.

“It’s critical that climate adaptation doesn’t compromise our ability to produce food and fibre, or result in reduced productivity, by limiting herd numbers for example.”

The declaration stresses “that any path to fully achieving the long-term goals of the Paris Agreement must include agriculture and food system”.

The NFF maintains that the commitment to the goals of the Paris Agreement should continue to recall Article 2, which recognises the importance of “Increasing the ability to adapt to the adverse impacts of climate change and foster climate resilience and low greenhouse gas emissions development, in a manner that does not threaten food production”.

The declaration pledges to “revisit or orient policies and public support related to agriculture and food systems to promote activities which increase incomes, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and bolster resilience, productivity, livelihoods, nutrition, water efficiency and human, animal and ecosystem health while reducing food loss and waste, and ecosystem loss and degradation”.

Mr Jochinke said that this was pleasing to read, and reemphasised the NFF’s commitment to addressing climate change.

“The NFF is fully committed to working collaboratively and constructively on this matter with the government, particularly as we consult on upcoming sectoral plans during 2024”.

The declaration also called for parties to “accelerate and scale science and evidence-based innovations – including local and Indigenous knowledge – which increase sustainable productivity and production of agriculture”.

Mr Jochinke noted that a continued focus on science and innovation was critical.

“Farmers are continually seeking improvements and innovation based on risk, science and evidence, and policies that support the innovation and uptake of new technologies that reduce emissions should be encouraged,” Mr Jochinke said.

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.