What if Australia has already hit net zero CO2?

Government-commissioned research suggests Australia may have already hit its net zero CO2 emissions target, sparking calls for agriculture to be heard on climate.

As the world gears up for the COP26 climate change conference next month, the media is predictably zeroing in on the Government’s need to commit to its 2050 net-zero goal.

However, more than 40 years of research from former State Government scientist Dr Bill Burrows suggests the country is already a carbon sink.

Based on the latest Paris Agreement rules (now adopted by the Department of Industry, Science, Environment, and Resources), Dr Burrows, who was one of Queensland’s most experienced and longest serving Government ecologists, says developments in measuring CO2 have led to more accurate samples that paint a different picture from the one the Government is selling.

It comes just days after a 16-page Courier Mail spread on climate failed to mention the contributions made by agriculture and the opportunities to do more in the future.

AgForce CEO Michael Guerin said it was high time people started paying attention to agriculture – the only industry to have materially lowered emissions in the last 20 years.

 “It is extremely disappointing to open a national newspaper and see that when ‘the powers that be’ decided to put together an extensive spread on climate they did so without giving agriculture a mention at all,” he said.

“To be so blatantly ignored, particularly when we have made such an enormous contribution in reducing emissions thus far and are continuing to do such great work, is not only incredibly ignorant but also smacks of incompetence.

“In addition, Dr Bill Burrows’ publicly available research, which indicates Australia has joined Bhutan as the only nation to achieve carbon sink status, has also been completely ignored.

“It begs the question, why are we smashing our economy if we have already achieved what we set out to do?”

Mr Guerin said he hoped the media would give Dr Burrows’ findings due consideration, warning the consequences of a net zero emissions policy would hit our regional communities the hardest.

“We do not want a repeat of the Kyoto Protocol, which saw agriculture kept in the dark and left bearing the brunt of reducing emissions for every single Australian,” he said.

“We have an industry that is the envy of much of the world.

“It gives Australians the surety that for seven days a week, 365 days of every year we have fresh, healthy and locally grown food on our supermarket shelves.

“COVID-19 gave the broader community a very brief taste of what it would be like without that steady supply, and yet it seems people are quick to forget.

“It is up to us to remind them, and to advocate for our producers.

“We are an industry which, to date, has made the biggest contribution to decarbonising our country, and we will continue to do so.”

Figures from the Quarterly Update of Australia’s National Greenhouse Gas Inventory reveal in 2019-20 Australia beat its 2020 emissions target by 459 million tonnes, largely due to significant declines from agriculture.

In the last three decades, emissions from cropping and grazing have fallen 69 per cent, while the red meat sector has reduced its emissions by 57 per cent since 2005.

“Despite this, we have been taken for granted for the past 20 years, and if recent newspaper coverage is anything to go by, we continue to be overlooked,” added Mr Guerin.

“That needs to change today.

“Going forward, we must be included as an important part of the climate conversation if we are to continue to have an industry that contributes to healthy landscapes and environments.

“Agriculture holds a tangible part of the solution for our ongoing challenges – climatically, economically and socially – and with so much at stake, we will not be silenced.”

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