By Stephen Bygrave. RenewEconomy, 23-10-2014
The Zero Carbon Australia Land Use report can be downloaded here
Agriculture and forestry activities cover most of Australia, but increasingly, no longer our national consciousness. With most of our population now living in the cities, the remainder of the continent is often forgotten. The vast space between our coastlines is not empty, however. In fact most of it is farmed and managed for a wide variety of commercial purposes.
Beyond Zero Emissions has been working for several years on a major research project to look at reducing greenhouse emissions from the Land Use sector — agriculture and forestry. The result, released this week, is the Zero Carbon Australia Land Use Report.
The report shows a surprisingly high emissions profile for the Land Use sector, a sector that will be most impacted by climate change. But well-understood and already widely practiced strategies can move the sector a long distance towards the goal of zero emissions, helping to prevent the worst impacts of climate change.
The research proceeded from an initial investigation into where emissions in the sector come from, and at what magnitude. It turns out that various activities on the land including farming, forestry, and land-clearing, account for a huge proportion of our national emissions. This is masked in our national accounts, which splits the sector and offsets its emissions against reductions from revegetation of land.
By including all emissions from farming and land-clearing for agriculture, we derived a figure of 33 per cent of Australia’s annual emissions coming from land use practices.
The largest contributor was land clearing and re-clearing, followed by enteric fermentation (the production of methane by ruminant animals’ digestive systems, mainly cattle and sheep).
The report also found that carbon stocks in native forests are systematically underestimated by a factor of up to four or five, so that the climate impact of native forest logging is much higher than previously thought. If the report had been able to include an adequate appraisal of emissions from clearfell logging, total land use emissions would be higher still.
Native forest logging at Toolangi in Victoria's central highlands. From crdunn.blogspot.com.au