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Climate Change and Agriculture; Research and Development in Australia: Overview

October 10, 2009

As I wrote in a previous post, Australia has a big incentive to lead technical research and development in both adaptation activities in relation to agriculture, as well as greenhouse gas mitigation technologies and methods.

Development of solutions in these spaces would help to protect a valuable and important part of the Australian domestic and export market from the impacts of climate change, and from the impacts of carbon pricing on product prices, competitiveness, and food security. At present, the Government does not anticipate that the inclusion of agriculture is ‘practical’ within the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (CPRS) in the first instance, and not before 2015. The recent prolonged drought and impacts on rural industries has made the issue of climate change in the context of agricultural practice a salient one in the Australian political landscape.

The Australian Government has been active in working with rural industries and research organisations. In 2004 the Australian Government initiated the Strategic Research and Development Investment Plan under the Greenhouse Action in Regional Australia Program, which ran until 2008. Under this R&D investment programme, six themes were funded, which were: Livestock emissions, soil emissions, savannas, planted forests, climate change and natural resource management, and climate change and farming systems. The projects funded under these themes can be found here.

The Department of Fisheries and Forestry is leading research initiatives through ‘Australia’s Farming Future’, described as;

the Australian Government’s climate change initiative for primary industries. It provides funding over four years to help primary producers adapt and respond to climate change

with the implementation stream being the climate change research programme, under the broad themes of:

• reducing greenhouse gas emissions,

• improving soil management, and

• adaptation tools and techniques.

Specific sections of this research includes the ‘Reducing emissions from livestock research program’ , the Nitrous Oxide research program, the Biochar future research initiative, the soil carbon research program and lastly ten projects under the Adaptation Research Program.

There are some short-term pressures to remind the industry of the need for continued investment in research and development in this space.

The Government intends to rebate the effect of the CPRS on fuel costs for businesses in the agricultural and fishing industries for three years, while forestry might ‘opt-in’ from 2010 on a voluntary basis (although deforestation is not included).

At the same time, progress is being made at the UNFCCC on the treatment of bunker fuels and international transport emissions, meaning that pressure on addressing carbon emissions in the agriculture supply chain is already pressing.

Therefore, continued domestic and international collaboration and investment into greenhouse gas mitigation in agriculture is critical, while enhanced productivity and adaptation measures must go hand-in-hand.

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