Sunday, November 15, 2009


"Agriculture excluded from ETS: govt" screams the headline this Sunday morning. And Penny Wong is on ABCTV's Insiders program discussing the 'OFFER' that farmers be exempt from emissions caps for methane and nitrous oxide... and that they will be given the opportunity to earn carbon credits for changed land management. The OFFER is on the table, conditional on the Opposition supporting the ETS legislation. SO the bird isn't in the hand, yet. It is not time to celebrate yet, but the signs are good


1. Penny Wong looked relaxed and comfortable making the announcement, as though it is a done deal.
2. It allows the Government to go to Copenhagen with an Agriculture positon that reflects the Obama Administraton's preferred outcome.
3. Kevin Rudd is meeting right now (this minute) with 17 of the top 20 nations at breakfast at which President Obama will be present. (Giving him a chance to shine in public. He loves it.)
4. It allows Turnbull to wedge the dissenters over the ETS and makes people like the Barnaby Nationals look silly.

Congratulations should go to Greg Hunt (Shadow Environment Minister) who first introduced soil carbon to Turnbull. Congratulations also to Turnbull. And Congratulations to Ian Macfarlane, the surprise package in the Opposition's Climate Change response. A former denialist, he proved to be a skilled negotiator, charming the stoic Wong by giving what appeared to be sincere praise from the gravel-voiced old farmer.

Congratulations to all of us. And shame on those who peddled worst case scenario visions of the future to those whose greatest need is hope.

To those inevitably outraged by this special treatment for Agriculture - which by some twisted arithmetic is responsible for 51% of world emissions - consider the following;

Farmers are small business operators.
Farmers emit less than the 25000 tonnes CO2-e over a year - which is the threshold entry point for other businesses into the ETS. No other small businesses are included.
Farmers are the only people who can feed the world. Famine is a major cause of world armed conflict.
Emissions estimations have been based on questionable science.
Most opponents of the farm sector are ideologically incapable of assessing its contribution and the nature of its emissions profile.
Farmers genuinely work in a unique environment.
Farmers are expected to perform socially-valuable environmental work (with no compensation) by a society which at the same time refuses to pay the full value for what they grow.
Farmers are the only hope we have got to stall Climate Change long enough for renewable energy alternatives can reach critical mass.

The soil carbon credit is the first recognition of this special role of the farmer. They are bearing the brunt of climate change. They deserve support.

Well done, Minister Wong.

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