Carbon farming: river of gold, or flood of words?

28 November, 2012

in Climate change and agriculture conference 2012, Media releases

Wednesday 29 November at the CCRSPI conference on agriculture and climate change

  • Can our farmers really help Australia meet its emissions targets using ‘soil carbon’?
  • What will happen to the nation’s agriculture and industry if a future Government withdraws from carbon pricing and trading?
  • And why is nearly 40 per cent of Australia’s capacity to soak up carbon—the wetlands and estuaries—not included in carbon legislation?

These are crucial questions, given that politicians of all persuasions are relying heavily on Australia’s farmers and the land they cultivate to slow the increase of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

Both sides of politics have pinned their hopes on farmers. Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s ‘clean energy future’ package includes a carbon farming scheme, and Opposition Leader Tony Abbot’s ‘direct action’ plan places much of its hope in soil carbon. Is this reliance on the land sector justified?

Conference chair Snow Barlow is available to talk about the big picture today at the Climate Change Research Strategy for Primary Industries Conference at the MCG in Melbourne today.

CSIRO’s Jeff Baldock and Colin Creighton of FRDC can talk about the science behind soil carbon and blue carbon respectively.

And Ben Keogh can talk about the critical roles of agricultural carbon management and a price on carbon.

Why is nearly 40 per cent of Australia’s capacity to soak up carbon—the wetlands and estuaries—not included in carbon legislation?

Colin Creighton of the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation, whose talk entitled Including the moist and most productive bits in Australian policy and action will explore why Australia’s wetlands and estuaries have been neglected in carbon policy. “They are the most productive ecosystems, the most bio-diverse, the highest carbon sequesters per hectare and produce the highest quality healthy food sustainably at the lowest input costs of all primary industries,” he argues.

What will happen to the nation’s agriculture and industry if a future Government withdraws from carbon pricing and trading?

Ben Keogh, manager of agriculture carbon management and emissions trading consultants Australian Carbon Traders, who will be speaking on Carbon farming – a business perspective. He believes that effective carbon management is critical to Australia’s economic future. “Carbon markets are far bigger than Australia, and they will continue. Any removal of the carbon price in Australia will lead to an exodus of talent from the industry.  And any deferral of a carbon price will have ramifications through the economy by embedding out-dated practices, making any future shift all the harder.

Can our farmers really help Australia meet its emissions targets using ‘soil carbon’?

Dr Jeff Baldock of CSIRO, whose paper Australian soil carbon stocks: a summary of the SCaRP program results surveys the most recent evidence of the levels of carbon stored in Australian soils. And it shows how difficult it is to discern the impact on carbon absorption of different agricultural practices. “No individual management practice has the same influence on soil carbon stocks across all agricultural regions. And significant differences in soil carbon stocks often were not detected despite strong variations in management practices.”

For interviews: Thami Croeser: 0421 133 012, AJ Epstein: 0433 339 141, or email niall@scienceinpublic.com.au

And more information at http://www.scienceinpublic.com.au/agricultureandclimate

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