Australia to develop decarbonization plan for agriculture sector

Climate change and energy minister Chris Bowen said decarbonization plans will be set for agriculture and five other sectors, without sector-specific emissions reduction targets being imposed.

The Australian federal government will start developing sector-specific plans to accelerate decarbonization, with agriculture and land one of the six sectors chosen.

Climate change and energy minister Chris Bowen announced the plans at the Clean Energy Council’s Australian Clean Energy Summit 2023 in Sydney, with the plans set to feed into both the government’s Net Zero 2050 initiative and its projection of reducing emissions by 48 percent by 2035 compared with 2005 levels.

Bowen confirmed the plans would not come with individual sector-specific emissions reduction targets, as has been controversially implemented for agriculture in other countries such as New Zealand and the Netherlands.

“There won’t be targets sector by sector – there’ll be plans which then feed into our 2035 and 2050 targets. We’ll say [for each] sector, here’s how we think it decarbonizes and fits into the 2035 and 2050 targets. It’s a small distinction but an important one,” Bowen said.

“Inevitably, different sectors have different timelines and decarbonization pathways, because they are dealing with different challenges and different technologies coming forward at different times. Agriculture is very different from the built environment. They both need to be working with us and we need to be working with them on decarbonization, but they are very different beasts and are going to have different pathways.”

Bowen said the government will begin developing plans in consultation with industry bodies and other stakeholders for six sectors: electricity and energy; industry; the built environment; agriculture and land; transport; and resources.

Each plan will be developed by Bowen alongside his relevant ministerial colleagues in Cabinet, which for agriculture and land will be agriculture minister Murray Watt and water and environment minister Tanya Plibersek.

Bowen said that the government will develop the plans after listening to “advice from Australian and international investors that government-guided sectoral plans are vital for attracting billions in new investment in decarbonization in Australia.”

He said: “The level and quality of dialogue and collaboration with industries, experts and citizens will set these plans apart from anything that’s been done before. This is a shared endeavor: we must work together to do what’s both possible and practical to stop dangerous climate change and realize the economic opportunities of net zero.

“The end result will be six net-zero sectoral plans that are robust, ambitious but achievable, and accepted by the broader community.”

According to figures published by the Climate Change Authority, an independent statutory agency established by the Australian government in 2011, agriculture accounted for around 13 percent of Australia’s carbon emissions in 2020, although the amount of carbon emitted has reduced by 16 percent since 2005.

Erwin Jackson, director, policy at the Investor Group on Climate Change, said in a statement: “Clear emissions pathways, goal posts and policy for all sectors can provide clarity for investors and the companies they own, help guide business strategy, climate-related financial disclosures, and the allocation of private capital towards new technology and infrastructure.

“Investors need to project revenue before deploying capital. That requires legislated policies and clear sector-by-sector implementation plans.

“National and sector pathways aligned with 1.5C would allow investors to get on the front foot. Investors want to be deploying capital into the strong economic growth linked to climate solutions, not just protecting their portfolios against climate damages.”