The Nationals are upping their campaign to exclude agriculture from any framework for achieving net zero emissions by 2050, but industry groups have already pledged to meet the target.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has not 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.
Some members of the Nationals have been less than impressed by the idea, but the junior coalition government partner has an offer – for agriculture to be removed from the emissions reduction target.
Industry groups have flagged support for net zero emissions targets, with the National Farmers Federation and GrainGrowers calling for a 2050 deadline, while Meat and Livestock Australia has a 2030 goal.
GrainGrowers also want a grain-specific emissions reduction target for 2030.
But Nationals deputy leader David Littleproud, who is also agriculture minister, says the sector has done the heavy lifting in previous emissions reduction agreements.
“They should be rewarded not penalised again,” he told the ABC on Monday.
Mr Littleproud’s 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 isn’t excluded.
“That is democracy,” Mr Littleproud said.
“We represent regional and rural Australia and particularly agriculture sectors right across the country.”
Farmers for Climate Action say the industry instead needs funding for research and development so they can accurately measure and reduce emissions.
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,” Dr 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 interim targets.
He think it’s absurd the federal government is debating which sectors could be excluded from a target they haven’t agreed to.
“(The prime minister) is always smirk and mirrors when it comes to action on climate change,” Mr Albanese told reporters in Cairns.
Excluding agriculture would put Australia in line with New Zealand’s net zero by 2050 plans, which puts a lower threshold on methane.
Agriculture made up 13 per cent of Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions last year.
That’s expected to rise to 2030 as the effect of the drought eases.