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Carve farmers out of net zero emissions target, say Nationals

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Queensland’s senior National Party MP, Agriculture Minister David Littleproud, wants the sector he’s responsible for excluded from any government plans to reach net zero emissions by 2050.

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The Nationals are upping their campaign to exclude agriculture from any framework for achieving net zero emissions by 2050, even though industry groups have already pledged to meet the target.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has not yet committed to achieving net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 but is laying the groundwork to adopt it as policy, following allies such as the US.

The Nationals are less than impressed, but the junior coalition government partner has an offer – for agriculture to be removed from the emissions reduction target.

The National Farmers Federation supports net zero by 2050 but its chief Tony Mahar says the way forward must make economic sense and not hurt agriculture.

“Agriculture is too important to leave out and too important to ignore,” he said.

“Farmers are in the box seat to seize the opportunities from a reduced emissions future – and many are already doing just that.

“Any policy that restricts opportunities available to farmers and rural and regional communities would clearly be a negative outcome.”

GrainGrowers have called for a 2050 deadline and also want a grain-specific emissions reduction target for 2030.

Meat and Livestock Australia has an ambitious 2030 goal for net zero emissions.

Littleproud, the Nationals deputy leader, says farmers have done the heavy lifting in previous emissions reduction agreements.

“They should be rewarded not penalised again,” he told the ABC.

His comments echo earlier remarks from Nationals leader Michael McCormack.

Nationals backbencher Barnaby Joyce has threatened to cross the floor and vote against a 2050 target if agriculture is not excluded.

Farmers for Climate Action want industry funding for research and development so emissions can be accurately measured.

The group’s deputy chair Anika Molesworth says farmers are on the frontline of climate change, with more frequent and severe droughts.

“Farmers are also keenly aware that the global economy is increasingly moving towards a low-carbon future, where trade barriers and carbon tariffs will soon be in place,” Molesworth said.

“In that environment, high-emitting countries risk being left behind.”

Labor leader Anthony Albanese is yet to reveal his party’s much-anticipated plan to achieve net zero by 2050, or any interim targets.

He thinks it’s absurd the federal government is debating which sectors could be excluded from a target they have not agreed to.

“(The prime minister) is always smirk and mirrors when it comes to action on climate change,” Albanese told reporters in Cairns.

Excluding agriculture would put Australia in line with New Zealand’s net zero by 2050 plans, which places a lower target on reducing methane levels.

Agriculture made up 13 per cent of Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions last year and the percentage is expected to rise to 2030 as the effect of the drought eases.

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