Australia can eliminate net greenhouse emissions from land use: agriculture & forestry, giving rural communities economic opportunities & increased resilience to climate change.
Report released October 2014 by
Beyond Zero Emissions (BZE)
The land use sector is the second largest source of emissions in Australia and is the only sector of the Australian economy that can draw carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere, by sequestering it in growing plants and soil. This means that the land use sector is in a unique position to reduce climate impacts. Key findings in this Land Use Plan include:
- The land use sector can take a lead role in addressing climate change.
- Australia can drastically reduce its net agricultural emissions to around zero by changes to some agricultural activities and limited revegetation.
- Revegetation of 13% of cleared land can draw down sufficient carbon to balance ongoing emissions from land use.
- The eucalyptus tall open forests of south-east Australia can sequester 7,500 million tonnes of carbon dioxide if allowed to recover from clear-fell logging.
For a copy of the Land Use Plan, see below
Climate change threatens Rural Communities
“The adverse impacts of a changing climate are going to have serious effects in agriculture and water sectors. This would have an impact on food security, nutrition, and rural livelihoods.”
(William Sutton: World Bank Lead Economist: 2013)
The land use sector in Australia is highly exposed to the impacts of climate change. Recent climate projections show that by 2100 global temperatures may increase by 4 to 5 degrees C. The climatic changes in the years ahead will have a dramatic impact on our ability to maintain agricultural productivity and the viability of rural communities.
- Increasing temperatures cause higher evaporation, soil degradation, higher irrigation demand and lower crop yields
- Lower rainfall causes water scarcity: a 10% reduction in rainfall can cause 30% lower stream flows.
- Extreme weather events such as floods, droughts and cyclones can slash crop yields
Many farmers are already experiencing challenges in running their farms. Extreme weather events are becoming both more frequent and more intense, resulting in more regular and severe droughts, bushfires and floods.
Steps towards zero-carbon land use:
- Ceasing clearing land for agriculture
- Ceasing re-clearing land
- Reducing savannah burning
- Reducing emissions from beef cattle through changes to diet, breeding and herd management techniques
- Reducing beef exports and herd sizes
- Reducing soil emissions
- Reducing manure emissions through better management of manure
- Revegetating 13% of cleared land for carbon sequestration. This is an opportunity to revitalise rural and regional areas and diversify income sources for farmers. It would be prioritised on steep land, degraded land, land suffering from salinity or unproductive land.
The Land Use Report assesses:
- Land use practices in Australia as a source of greenhouse emissions,
- the potential of the land to draw down atmospheric CO2, and
- the impact of changes to land use patterns on local economies.
“The science and knowledge presented in this report contribute to ongoing national and global debate on how the management of land-based biomass production and consumption can be developed towards a higher degree of sustainability across different scales. The report deals with the highly contentious and complex environmental issue of how best to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture and forestry land uses in Australia; through modelling and exploration of different alternative scenarios, it discusses plausible opportunities toward substantial emissions reductions in the agricultural sector. Undoubtedly many of the proposed interventions require transformational changes in policy and people’s behaviour for their successful implementation, including a concerted effort from farmers, rural and urban communities and government.”
(Graciela Metternicht: Professor and Director: The University of NSW Australia Institute of Environmental Studies)
An article about the Land Use Plan
(Renew Economy: Stephen Bygrave: 23 October 2014)
Get a full copy of the Paper
See a presentation by one author of the Land Use Paper
Zero Carbon Australia: Land Use: Agriculture and Forestry Discussion Paper
First Edition: October 2014
Pages: 184 including appendices
Beyond Zero Emissions
Fitzroy, Victoria, Australia
The Land Use project has been led by researchers:
- Andrew Longmire,
- Dr Chris Taylor and
- Gerry Wedderburn-Bisshop.
Volunteers assisted with modeling agricultural emissions, landscape carbon sequestration potential and the value of agricultural production for the whole continent, using peer-reviewed methodologies.
The Land Use Report was a joint project between:
- Beyond Zero Emissions and
- The University of Melbourne’s Melbourne Sustainable Society Institute (MSSI).
The project was made possible by the generous support of a private donor and significant additional assistance from MSSI.
Other BZE plans
Here is an overview of all key BZE publications.
Front cover photograph credits
Permission pending: Jocelyn Smit and David Young
Codes: zLUP zPublication