May 31, 2021
Australian think tank's credibility questioned following claims about livestock production's carbon emissions
The chief executive of AgForce, a not-for profit organisation that represents the interests of cattle and grain producers in Australia, has called the Australia Institute's credibility into question following its latest climate report.
According to the report "Banking on Australia's Emissions: Why creative accounting will not get us to net zero emissions", emissions caused by livestock had declined 25.4% between 1990 and 2019. However, it claimed "any reduction in these emissions is likely to revert to previous levels" as drought conditions ease.
The think tank also challenges the Australian government's claim that emissions have declined 19%, arguing that this figure has been achieved by historic changes in deforestation, the impact of the 2017–2019 drought and COVID – not government climate policy initiatives.
AgForce CEO Michael Guerin said the Australia Institute's allegations "smacked of hypocrisy", accusing it of ‘creative' reporting and research that amounts to "little more than selective theorising and assumptions – not facts."
Highlighting a section concerning agriculture in the report, Guerin said it "contains two graphs that clearly show land sector emissions reducing, and sheep, cattle, and total agriculture emissions reducing; yet the Australia Institute makes the claim it won't last.
"They say sheep numbers reduced here, so that helped reduced emissions. And there was a drought for 10 years there and lots of livestock died, so that helped as well.
"But that's agriculture – that's the life. We will always be battling some sort of issue and the number of sheep or cattle in a given area will increase and decrease over time.
"At best, with this report, the Australia Institute has taken a cynical view in interpreting the raw data when it comes to our industry. But beyond that, to suggest that when the drought ends or conditions surrounding COVID improve, we'll see a return to pre-1990 numbers for emissions from agriculture is just plain false."
Guerin added there could be significant, potentially devastating implications from the claims being made by the institute.
"For years now, agriculture has been investing in and working on sequestering carbon, conserving soil moisture, increasing bio-diversity, reducing erosion and runoff, and we are already seeing very positive results," Guerin said.
"Emissions from cropping and grazing have fallen by 71% over the past three decades. The red meat sector has reduced emissions by more than 50% since 2005 and agriculture as an industry has a clearly stated goal of becoming climate neutral by 2030.
"Literally thousands of individual family-operated farming businesses (in Australia) have invested heavily into improving their practices and their equipment, holding up their end to reduce their carbon footprint."