Reducing your emissions can result in on-farm productivity gains. A good understanding of carbon management and emissions reduction and how they influence productivity is becoming vital for the future of farming.
Reducing your emissions on your property involves the mitigation or abatement of greenhouse gas emissions. At this stage, primary industry businesses do not need to participate in a regulated emissions reduction scheme to decrease their carbon footprint.
A variety of different practices can decrease carbon emissions and thus a properties footprint:
- planting vegetation
- transitioning to pasture cropping
- no-till cropping
- mulching and manuring
- rumen inoculants
- natural fertilisers
- maximising groundcover.
The additional benefits of these carbon footprint reduction practices include:
- reducing erosion
- improving soil structure and fertility
- increase biodiversity and plant productivity
- buffering against drought
- increased water efficiency.
Benefits of reducing your carbon emissions
There are many benefits to reducing your businesses emissions. Proactive farmers who reduce their greenhouse gas emissions could be rewarded in two ways:
1. Through co-benefits of enhanced production. For example, shading or shelter provided by trees can improve lamb survival and increase liveweight turnoff, increasing profit.
2. In the future, the government may introduce a carbon tax that charges farm businesses who produce above a certain threshold of emissions. People who have already and proactively reduced their emissions will thus be in a better position should carbon taxes be legislated.
For the most part, greenhouse gas emissions need to be reduced rather than offset by abatement activities such as:
- enteric methane reduction from livestock
- reduced nitrogen fertiliser use.
Other benefits include:
- income from carbon in compliance or voluntary schemes
- opportunities to participate in low carbon or carbon neutral branded supply chains
- increased domestic and international market access
- increased access to finance borrowing options
- carbon prices may increase in future – current price ~$AU35/t CO2-e, current EU prices ~$97/t CO2
- improved consumer and public rapport for agriculture sector
- income from biodiversity conservation
- government introduces a future carbon pollution tax on agriculture
- other government regulations if the agricultural sector fails to curb emissions.
Source: Adapted from Assoc. Professor Matthew Harrison's Carbon Farming: market risks, rebates, types of greenhouse gases and accounting tools webinar
There can also be trade-offs and risks associated with carbon farming. You can read more about this on our considerations and benefits page.
Australia's 2030 emissions reduction target
Australia's 2030 Emissions Reduction Target
The Australian Government has an emissions reduction target of 43% below 2005 levels by 2030. These targets will be met through policies built on the Direct Action approach which will improve productivity, reduce costs and drive innovation, such as:
- Emissions Reduction Fund
- Safeguard Mechanism
- and other complementary policies.
According to Professor Richard Eckard, greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture can be reduced by around 80%, with the remaining emissions to be offset by sequestration activities.
Sequestration activities should ideally be used to drawdown carbon dioxide (CO2) equivalents to achieve an overall reduction in atmospheric CO2e concentrations. A view from some of the scientific community is more about achieving absolute zero emissions not net zero.
According to Carbon dioxide emissions - Our World in Data, in 1950 the world emitted 6 billion tonnes of CO2. By 1990 this had almost quadrupled, reaching more than 22 billion tonnes. Emissions have continued to grow rapidly - we now emit over 34 billion tonnes each year.
According to the UN Environmental Program Emissions Gap Report, global CO2 emissions need to fall to 25 billion tonnes per year to keep global warming to 1.5 °C.
Greenhouse gas emissions scopes
Greenhouse gas emissions have been broken down into three scopes:
Scope 1: Emissions released to the atmosphere as a direct result of an activity or series of activities at a facility level.
- methane emissions from livestock
- nitrous oxide emissions from fertiliser, urine, dung and waterlogged soil
- emissions from operating farm machinery.
Scope 2: Emissions released into the atmosphere from the indirect consumption of an energy commodity.
- emissions from coal powered electricity used to operate a milking shed, or shearing shed.
Scope 3: Indirect greenhouse gas emissions other than those scope 2 emissions that occur as a consequence of the activities of a facility but are not owned or controlled by that facility.
- upstream (pre-farm) emissions from purchased inputs like fertiliser, chemicals and livestock feed
- downstream (post-farm) emissions like transport and manufacturing/processing emissions.
Source: Clean Energy Regulator© Clean Energy Regulator, Commonwealth of Australia and CN30 Carbon accounting technical manual