Australian farmers warn PM not to rush into Biden’s global methane pledge | Australian foreign policy

The National Farmers’ Federation has warned the Albanese government not to rush any plan to sign on to Joe Biden’s global methane pledge, declaring the consequences of such a decision taken on the fly “could be calamitous”.

Australia’s resources minister, Madeleine King, revealed on Thursday the new government was considering signing the push to limit global methane emissions by 30% from 2020 levels by the end of the decade – an initiative Scott Morrison declined to join.

But King stressed no final decision would be taken without careful consultation with Australian farmers and the resources sector. Methane is a potent greenhouse gas produced by livestock and other agricultural processes and also during gas extraction.

The NFF’s national president, Fiona Simson, welcomed Labor’s commitment to extensive consultation before any final policy decision.

Simson said farmers were looking to the new government “to lead climate change policy that charts a course for agriculture and the bush to survive and thrive in a reduced-emissions future; this includes all sectors such as livestock, cropping, horticulture, and forestry”.

She said the NFF had backed an economy-wide net zero by 2050 aspiration provided that an economic path forward was identified “and farmers are not unnecessarily burdened by further regulation”.

But Simson warned if the methane pledge resulted in plans to “cut agricultural production or livestock numbers, especially at a time of record food prices,” the NFF would “vigorously” oppose it because this was “not just an agricultural issue, this is a global food security issue”.

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Simson said the NFF had not yet seen any detail on how signing up to the Biden initiative “would compare in the real world to Australia’s existing commitments – which already include methane – or how implementation might be achieved”.

Biden used last year’s climate summit in Glasgow to push for a pact to cut global methane emissions by 30% from 2020 levels before 2030. Over 100 countries pledged, but the Morrison government refused to sign on.

In a wide-ranging interview with Guardian Australia, King said the Albanese government was now looking “actively” at signing the pledge. She said curbing methane emissions – more than 80 times as powerful as CO2 – was “a big challenge for agriculture and the gas industry, but they are very much on to it and have been talking about how they reduce their methane for several years”.

The potential revival of the methane pledge would form part of the new government’s efforts to extract itself from what Anthony Albanese terms “the naughty corner” of global climate action by projecting renewed policy ambition to the Pacific and the rest of the world.

While the NFF expressed outright opposition to the pledge during the tenure of the Morrison government, Farmers for Climate Action has previously urged Australia to commit to cutting methane.

Damian Dwyer, the acting chief executive of the Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association – an industry body representing companies that explore for and produce oil and gas in Australia – said reducing methane had been “a priority for the industry for decades”.

“With a commitment to economy-wide net zero by 2050, the sector is one of the biggest investors in decarbonization technology, having announced $6bn of initiatives already,” Dwyer said.

When signing the methane pledge, Dwyer said: “We are comfortable with the commitments provided by the minister to work with the industry, and we look forward to further consultation over the period ahead.”

The Ai Group, a business association representing gas users, welcomed the signal from King. “Cutting methane leaks by 30% this decade would mean an easier burden for the rest of the economy to meet the overall emissions target, and it might even mean a bit more gas getting to energy users rather than into thin air,” said the Ai group chief executive, Innes Willox.

Willox said the safeguard mechanism, a Coalition policy mechanism that Labor plans to use to accelerate medium-term emissions reduction, appeared “the most obvious policy tool both to incentivise improvements at large resource facilities directly and to grow demand for offsets generated by improvements in the livestock sector”.

Bella E. McMahon
I am a freelance writer who started blogging in college. I am fascinated by human nature, politics, culture, technology, and pop culture. In addition to my writing, I enjoy exploring new places, trying out new things, and engaging in conversations with new people. Some of my favorite hobbies are reading, playing music, making crafts, writing, traveling, and spending time with my family.