The Australian Government is developing an Agriculture and Land Sectoral Plan to describe how Australia can reach its net zero by 2050 goal.

The plan will focus on the emissions that come directly from activities in agriculture and on the land, as well as emissions associated with energy, fuel and electricity use.

Globally, more than one-third of greenhouse gas emissions caused by human activity can be attributed to the way food is produced and consumed.

Land and ocean ecosystems are also the most valuable carbon sinks, removing and storing CO2 from the atmosphere.

Ensuring that agricultural and land systems can reduce and remove emissions in line with a 1.5-degree pathway will require changes in how food is grown, what is grown, and in how land is managed – particularly Australia’s forests and natural carbon sinks.

Action is especially urgent given the window to keep global warming within 1.5°C is open but narrowing.

Climateworks Centre has conducted extensive scenario modelling to determine emissions reduction pathways for Australia compatible with the Paris climate goals.

Our submission draws on:

  • Climateworks Centre decarbonisation scenarios 2023 economy-wide modelling
  • initial results from the upgraded Land Use Trade Offs model (LUTO 2.0) that Climateworks and Deakin University have been developing (noting these are yet to be finalised) and foundational research that has contributed to the development of the model
  • Climateworks’ Land Use Futures program and Natural Capital Investment Initiative’s engagement with agriculture, conservation, finance, corporate and government sectors around what sustainable land use looks like and what is required to achieve it.

Climateworks recommends that the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF) and Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water (DCCEEW) take into account the following considerations when developing the Agriculture and Land Sectoral Plan.

Specific recommendations for each of these points are included in the submission document.

  • Focus the Agriculture and Land Sectoral Plan on sectoral change in line with the 1.5°C target of the Paris Agreement, the Global Methane Pledge, and the goals in the Convention on Biological Diversity; and use least-cost sectoral pathway analysis to guide actions.
  • Ensure the Sectoral Plan takes a holistic, systems-level approach to balancing climate, nature and agricultural production to address tradeoffs and maximise co-benefits. This includes acknowledging the need for significant land use change to reach climate and nature goals, promoting shifts in land management and food production systems to support such changes, optimising opportunities across regions and sub-sectors, and supporting nature-based solutions (NbS) to achieve multiple goals.
  • Develop realistic, shared expectations of the land sector’s capacity to compensate for other sectors’ emissions. This requires consideration of a broad range of costs (financial, social and environmental), promoting consistency across sectors in the use of offsets, and ensuring scientifically rigorous treatment of the relationship between biological removals from the land sector and emissions from fossil fuels and industrial processes.
  • Address data and information gaps to support and enable planning. Bringing agriculture into the National Greenhouse and Energy Reporting Scheme requirements can contribute to this need, along with supporting work on modelling, mapping and data systems to fully assess the opportunities and tradeoffs between climate, nature and agricultural productivity objectives, and addressing limitations in the reliability of data on carbon storage in the land.
  • Set out how government will drive investment and expenditure to achieve the pace and scale of change in land use and management required to meet climate goals and restore nature. This includes ensuring that the development of the Sectoral Plan and the Sustainable Finance Strategy create a coherent approach to private and public investment. These should promote a broad suite of solutions, which should include but not overly rely on agricultural innovation. It is also important to clarify the potential and limitations of market-based mechanisms in bringing about the scale and pace of change required, with sufficient consideration given to complementary finance mechanisms, such as tax policies that incentivise sustainable land use.
  • Support a diversified and just transition in the land sector that results in a better quality of life, diversified economic opportunities and resilient rural communities. In particular, the plan must take pre-existing structural inequalities into consideration and provide opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to both access and express their connection to Country.

Download the submission