Hundreds of Australian farmers have called on Australia’s new Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce to make serious moves on climate change, saying the cost of doing nothing has already hit hard in their communities.
Disquiet in the Nationals’ camp surrounding the Prime Minister’s softening stance on a net-zero carbon emissions target is thought to have prompted Mr Joyce’s return to the party leadership through a spill on Monday.
The Nationals have flagged they are open to discussing the PM’s preference for net zero by 2050, but say they want to make sure regional Australia is kept financially comfortable in the process.
In the past, Mr Joyce has taken a somewhat stiff stance against tackling climate change – in 2013, he said: “What is this insane lemming-like desire to go to renewables going to do to our economy?”
On Monday, he was more tempered in his responses.
“It is not Barnaby policy, it’s Nationals’ policy, and Nationals’ policy is what I will be an advocate for,” he told reporters in Canberra, when asked his thoughts on a net-zero target.
Deputy Nationals leader David Littleproud told Sky News on Tuesday that his party “get it”, but they won’t be trading themselves away on climate policy until they’re assured of the detail and what’s in it for them.
“We copped it in the neck in regional Australia for everyone to sleep soundly in metropolitan Australia and it is time our mob got repaid for it,” Mr Littleproud said.
Mr Littleproud’s line seems at odds with the farmers of the country, who say they’ve already copped it in the neck thanks to climate change inaction.
Farmers react to return of Joyce
David Chadwick is a beef cattle farmer from Coonamble in New South Wales.
He said the Nationals had sold out regional Australia in favour of big fossil-fuel dollars.
“When have The Nats backed farming over mining? The answer is never,” he told The New Daily.
“The Nationals will ride this sinking ship to the bottom of the harbour.
“The Liberals haven’t been any different. Morrison has only been dragged to the table because of global pressure to make them pull their heads in.
“That’s the problem.”
He described the feeling in his community at the moment of being like “lambs to the slaughter” as they try to plan their future farming practices around a warming planet.
Mr Chadwick said it was disappointing to watch those who are meant to advocate for rural Australians throw their support behind new coal projects.
Prominent members within the Nationals party room have become vocal advocates for more taxpayer funding for coal-fired power stations, including a new plan in Collinsville in Queensland.
They have also called for agriculture to be left out of any net-zero policy the government develops.
This is despite the farming industry’s peak body, the National Farmers Federation, voting in favour of an economy-wide target of net-zero carbon by 2050 last year.
It called on the government to do the same.
The industry is making strong headway in reducing its emissions, with red meat expected to be carbon neutral by 2030, pork by 2025, and work well under way for grains and dairy.
Farmers fear climate change
Within 15 hours of Mr Joyce being sworn in, 800 farmers signed a petition run by Farmers for Climate Action asking for stronger action on climate change.
Farmers for Climate Action deputy chair Charlie Prell said Australian farmers wanted strong leadership on this issue.
“There is so much evidence now. The road to a low-carbon future will be hugely beneficial to regional Australians, particularly farmers,” Mr Prell said.
Australia was best positioned globally to lead the world in renewables. It just needed clear policy and serious investment, he said.
“It’s driving me crazy that people can’t see the opportunities that are being presented. They are being held right in our face and we keep turning our backs,” Mr Prell told The New Daily.
Many of the Nationals are opposed to any change in Australia’s current commitment of 26 to 28 per cent cut in emissions by 2030, which is only half the goal set by the United States.
Mr Morrison will now have to juggle the concerns of the Nationals and growing international pressure to act.
The United Nations has called 2021 the “the make it or break it year” for climate change, with the highly anticipated COP26 summit, which is tasked with finalising rules for the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change, being held in November.
“We must achieve success at COP26,” UN climate chief Patricia Espinosa said earlier in June.
Australian farmers are calling for the government to join our major trading partners in stronger action.
One of Queensland’s major winemakers, Mike Hayes, lost nearly all of his 2020 vintage thanks to a combination of extreme weather events and the coronavirus pandemic.
“The wine industry is the canary in the coal mine,” he said.
“If there’s anything that’s so delicate to climate change, it’s Australia’s wine industry.”
Mr Hayes talks like a meteorologist when explaining the impacts of climate change on his crops.
He reels off the ice ages and the science that shows why what’s happening now is different.
“I’m disappointed with a lot of the governments. We are the greatest country on the planet for solar and wind ability,” Mr Hayes said.
“We need to wake up as a nation. If we haven’t got people in politics who want to do better there is only one answer – vote them out.”