Australia Institute responds to ag-sector criticisms of its latest emissions report

In response to the Australian farming sector's criticism of the Banking on Australia's Emissions report, Richie Merzian, Director of the Climate & Energy Program at the Australia Institute, explains that the report is not an indictment of the agriculture sector.
calendar icon 7 June 2021
clock icon 7 minute read

It is disappointing that peak bodies claiming to represent Australia’s farmers have chosen to interpret the Australia Institute’s report Banking on Australia’s Emissions as a criticism of the agriculture sector.

The Australia Institute recognises that Australia’s farmers are experiencing first-hand the impacts of climate change, and similarly recognises their contribution to reducing emissions in the land sector.

The report in question highlights that the Prime Minister’s claim of a 19% reduction in Australia’s emissions is misleading, and the basis of the claim relies on tricky accounting to conceal a lack of progress in transitioning to a low carbon economy. The report does not attack agriculture, rather it exposes the lack of work being done in other sectors of the Australian economy to reduce emissions. The Government’s recent release of Australia’s quarterly emissions data further confirms the dangerous lack of transition in sectors such as manufacturing, transport and waste.

Both the report and the lack of emissions reductions across other sectors of the Australian economy should be of particular interest to the agriculture industry for two reasons. Firstly, farmers are on the front line of the climate crisis. If Australia does not reduce emissions across all its sectors, it is the livelihoods of primary producers that are some of the most at risk from the impacts of climate change.

Secondly, and perhaps of greater concern, is that if other industries where it is actually easier and cheaper to reduce emissions (such as electricity and transport) don’t lift their weight, it will fall to industries where it is far more expensive and difficult (such as agriculture) to shoulder the burden. The Australia Institute’s report Harming Farming highlights the cost to farmers if an economy-wide transition to a low carbon economy doesn’t occur.

It is regrettable that representatives of peak organisations have chosen to criticise the Australia Institute and its research, rather than advocate for their members and address the double-blow to farmers of Australia failing to take sufficient action in the highest-emitting sectors of the economy.

Words: Richie Merzian, The Australia Institute

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