COP26 and climate: Agriculture’s chance to make real, positive difference

Last week National Farmers’ Federation President Fiona Simson and I had the chance to speak at the Federal Nationals party room meeting as they debated Australia’s plans to reach net zero emissions by 2050.

It was a rare and significant opportunity – the result of tireless lobbying – and during the time that we had we were united in conveying several key messages to the party room.

Firstly, that Australian agriculture cannot accept another ‘Kyoto’ (COP3) outcome, with the 20 years of damage it has inflicted on farmers who significantly and disproportionately delivered on our nation’s carbon reduction commitments.

During that time, vegetation management laws in Queensland have been radically amended more than 40 times – locking up land and preventing active management, resulting in thickening vegetation that chokes, rather than protects, healthy ecosystems.

Secondly, we agreed that our industry must be recognised and included in any future government policy for the work that farmers have done and for the future opportunities we have in front of us.

Agriculture and regional Australia have a powerful and positive story to tell on climate – both in terms of what has so far been achieved and what they still have to offer.

We are the only industry to have tangibly and demonstrably reduced emissions since COP3 and we can continue to be a strong part of Australia’s ongoing contribution to this issue.

However, for that to happen we must be equals in the conversation – counted in, not carved out, as some have suggested doing.

Australian agriculture, with support from science and the broader community, has a once in a generation opportunity to lead the world and announce its intention to do so on the international stage at COP26 in Glasgow.

We know it’s possible, we have the evidence to support it – now we need governments to back us.

Finally, Fiona and I conveyed to the Federal Nationals our shared belief in AgForce’s AgCarE program as a system that allows farmers to retain control of their ecosystem services, while improving the environment, and increasing their agribusiness’ resilience.

My own family-run operation participated in the initial AgCarE pilot and, as a result, I now know that our cattle breeding, trading, and fattening business sequesters more carbon than it emits.

Participation in AgCarE has given us renewed confidence in our operation, enabled our family to understand where we can do even more on climate, and opened our eyes to future opportunities available to us.

If COP26 (that gets underway in just a few days’ time) serves as the catalyst for the rest of the nation’s long overdue recognition of the work agriculture has so far done to reduce Australia’s emissions and improve our environment, then I for one will be satisfied – but not content.

It’s time we launched a new, compelling narrative – one that becomes woven into the fabric of every Australian’s consciousness and celebrates the combination of our unique landscapes, powerful agriculture industry, and strong regions.

That focuses on the truth behind our incredible industry’s role in enhancing our landscapes, our environment, and our communities.

That recognises – at this important crossroads – that if we are part of the decision-making process, we have the chance to make a real, positive difference.

Join AgForce in the conversation on COP26 in Glasgow by using #standwithregqld.

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