Australia signs up to global methane pledge, promises not to tax livestock emissions

By Jane Byrne

- Last updated on GMT

© GettyImages/No-Mad
© GettyImages/No-Mad

Related tags methane pledge Australia New zealand emissions

The Australian government said it is prioritising long-term competitiveness and joining the US, the EU and the UK in committing to collectively reduce global methane emissions across energy and resources, agriculture and waste sectors.

The pledge​ is a voluntary commitment with 122 signatories working collectively to reduce global methane emissions across all sectors by at least 30% below 2020 levels by 2030. 

Signatories commit to taking a range of domestic actions such as standards for reducing emissions in the energy and waste sectors and seeking abatement opportunities in the agricultural sector through technology and partnerships with farmers.

“The Australian government will continue to partner with industry to decarbonise the economy and pursue emissions reduction initiatives across energy and waste sectors including capturing waste methane to generate electricity,​” said the country’s climate change minister, Chris Bowen, in a statement.

The officials outlined how A$3bn from the country’s A$15bn National Reconstruction Fund will go towards supporting investment in low emissions technologies and component manufacturing along with agricultural methane reduction.

Under the Powering Australia plan, the Australian government has also committed A$8m to the seaweed industry to support commercialisation of the low-emissions livestock feed supplement, Asparagopsis, ​while it said the second stage of its Methane Emissions Reduction in Livestock (MERiL) program will provide A$5m in funding to develop technologies to deliver low emission feed supplements to grazing animals and determine their technical viability and commercial potential.

The pledge does not require Australia to focus solely on agriculture, or reduce agricultural production or livestock numbers, noted the official statement, and the government confirmed it will not legislate or introduce taxes or levies to reduce livestock emissions.

Farmers say no to emissions tax

Last week saw Australia’s largest agricultural advocacy body, NSW Farmers, demand that the federal government put down in writing a promise not to tax farmers for methane emissions.

Pete Arkle, CEO of that organization, which represents crop and animal producers in New South Wales (NSW), said while the farming sector is highly exposed to any change in climate, currently there is little that can be done to mitigate methane reduction outside of reducing the size of the national herd. “We need investment in research and development and better innovation to drive further emissions reductions.”

The regional farming group cited developments in New Zealand as reason for caution.

That country’s leader, Jacinda Ardern, has proposed to reduce methane emissions by imposing a tax on New Zealand’s cows and sheep. 

The prime minister had suggested a system, which would come into force in 2025, and whereby taxes would be levied on farmers based on the level of emissions from their herds. The amount due will depend on the number of animals kept, the size of the farm, the type of fertiliser used, and any methods used to mitigate methane production.

Ardern said the revenue generated would be recycled into research and incentives for producers struggling to reduce the methane contribution of their herds. But farmers in New Zealand are incensed and have been demonstrating against such measures.

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