AgForce CEO Michael Guerin has questioned the Australia Institute’s credibility after its latest report on climate highlighted emissions caused by livestock had declined 25.4 per cent between 1990 and 2019, yet claimed, “any reduction in these emissions is likely to revert to previous levels” as drought conditions ease.
In its report, Banking on Australia’s Emissions: Why creative accounting will not get us to net zero emissions, the influential public policy think tank challenges the Federal Government’s claim that emissions have declined 19 per cent saying that this figure has been achieved by historic changes in deforestation, the impact of the 2017–2019 drought, and COVID – not Government climate policy initiatives.
Mr Guerin said the Australia Institute’s allegations “smacked of hypocrisy”, accusing them of their own creative reporting, and research that amounts to “little more than selective theorising and assumptions – not facts.”
“When the Australia Institute releases a report about climate, it should be steeped in truth, not guess work,” Mr Guerin said.
“But this report, and the media release put out last week, read more like an elevated exercise in smoke and mirrors.
“The entire approach could have been lifted from the environmentalist’s handbook. It’s PR spin that communicates to the public and the media only as much as they want them to know.
“An example is the section on agriculture. The report contains two graphs that clearly show land sector emissions reducing, and sheep, cattle, and total agriculture emissions reducing, yet the Australia Institute makes the claim it won’t last.
“They say sheep numbers reduced here, so that helped reduced emissions. And there was a drought for 10 years there and lots of livestock died, so that helped as well.
“But that’s agriculture – that’s the life. We will always be battling some sort of issue and the number of sheep or cattle in a given area will increase and decrease over time.
“At best, with this report, the Australia Institute has taken a cynical view in interpreting the raw data when it comes to our industry. But beyond that, to suggest that when the drought ends or conditions surrounding COVID improve, we’ll see a return to pre-1990 numbers for emissions from agriculture is just plain false.”
Mr Guerin said there could be significant, potentially devastating implications from the claims being made by the Australia Institute. Claims that demonstrate they are either incredibly naive or utterly ill-informed.
“The Australia Institute’s slogan reads: Research that matters. Well, what matters here is getting the facts right and having at least some understanding of the issues and of the people at the end of the assumptions being made,” Mr Guerin said.
“There has been a creeping normality by some organisations with vested interests to lay the blame for everything negative when it comes to climate and the environment at the feet of agriculture.
“And this report and it’s theorising helps maintain that view. Some people, when they read the report, will assume everything it says is fact, even if it isn’t.
“For years now, agriculture has been investing in and working on sequestering carbon, conserving soil moisture, increasing bio-diversity, reducing erosion and runoff, and we are already seeing very positive results.
“Emissions from cropping and grazing have fallen by 71 per cent over the past three decades.
“The red meat sector has reduced emissions by more than 50 per cent since 2005 and agriculture as an industry has a clearly stated goal of becoming climate neutral by 2030.
“Literally thousands of individual family-operated farming businesses have invested heavily into improving their practices and their equipment, holding up their end to reduce their carbon footprint.
“But that still hasn’t stopped governments imposing increasingly harsher and more complex laws and penalties on primary producers, largely because they need to appease green groups.
“No one in this country has more at stake when it comes to preserving and protecting the environment than farmers. The land is their workplace, and they want to leave it in a better condition than when they found it so that they can hand it on to their kids.
“As a nation we should recognise – as is the case with our recovery from COVID – that we have no chance of reaching any sort of climate targets without the incredible work already being done by agriculture.
“That’s why it is past time to reset the conversation, to acknowledge the work being done and for governments and organisations like the Australia Institute to recognise the positive environmental impacts of what we do, not throw more fuel on an already simmering fire.”
Mr Guerin said AgForce was going even further to ensure not only did every producer in Queensland play their part in helping to look after the environment, but that they were rewarded for the cost of doing so.
“Agriculture Carbon and the Environment, AgCarE, is AgForce’s system for measuring sequestration and emissions at the property level,” Mr Guerin said.
“It strengthens our move toward a natural capital approach, identifying and acknowledging rural property performance by allowing increased income streams through improved production on healthy landscapes, payment for ecosystem services, and lower-risk finance from rural lenders.
“The measurements already taken on our member’s properties show that many are already carbon neutral or better – that they are sequestering much more carbon than they emit.
“We don’t see why agriculture and individual producers should continue to do all the heavy lifting, to protect our land, our environment, and our wildlife, and then be penalised for it through greater levels of regulation.
“We need to incentivise producers to build natural capital and restore landscapes. That way they receive some measure of compensation for their initial outlay, and increase agriculture’s ability and desire to help on climate.”
For media comments contact: AgForce CEO Michael Guerin 0488 002 092