The National Farmers’ Federation said the continued release of information and ongoing debate on the relative merits and likely impacts of climate change policies, from all sides of politics, were vital in the pursuit of a national energy policy.
“The NFF has long called for certainty in national energy policy, an outcome that continues to prove elusive,” NFF President Fiona Simson said.
“Only with policy clarity can real downward pressure on electricity prices, mechanisms to ensure reliable supply and transition to a lower emissions economy (the energy trilemma), be achieved.”
Ms Simson said farmers were already implementing climate solutions, whether by transitioning to alternate power generation technology, diversifying land use practice to participate in carbon markets or varying crop timing to adapt.
“Farmers are acting.”
Ms Simson said there was no doubt that different emissions targets would have different impacts on the economy.
“Equally it is recognised that higher emissions reduction targets can realign warming trajectories towards lower global warming outcomes.
“Australia is playing its part – it will exceed both the Kyoto commitment targets. That’s tonnes of CO2e in the bank. It’s sequestered. It’s no longer in the atmosphere.”
The NFF maintains that this is legitimate sequestration, much of it has been forced on farmers through land clearing laws, and therefore the benefit was socialised, that is, farmers didn’t get paid for delivering the outcome.
“To now have a debate that suggests surplus sequestration will just be chucked in the bin, is unpalatable,” Ms Simson said.
“Farmers expect these credits will contribute to the next (Paris) commitment period.”
The NFF understands carrying over credits is consistent with the current accounting rules and should contribute going forward. Another key concern of farmers goes beyond the debate about the target, to the implementation.
“Whatever the target, 26 or 45 per cent, and whatever the paradigm, with or without carryover or international credits, there needs to be a sensible transition.
“Already, we are seeing the rapid investment in renewables creating a lag in complementary firming technologies, this is impacting the reliability priority.
“As some reports suggest, further sectoral impacts of emissions reduction targets would include increased transport costs.”
Ms Simson said this would inevitably flow on to consumers (farmers are fuel consumers), and would therefore increase input costs.
“The impacts of energy (especially fuel and electricity) costs on farmers are not able to be passed on, so any increases will gouge profits and, worst case, viability.
“Equally, farmers need a suite of measures to adapt, whether that is new and innovative methodologies to sequester and price carbon, transition to alternate cropping or grazing regimes, or intensification to offset carbon constraints, it is both and exciting and scary world.”
Ms Simson said the NFF would continue to assess the options with a weather eye to opportunities, impacts and pathways for change.