Good practice, more research and incentives for farmers may be the best ways to reduce emissions, as discussed at last month’s Gippsland Red Meat Conference (August 29).

This was a key topic at one of the sessions at the conference, featuring Simon Quilty and Richard Eckard, titled ‘Greenhouse Gas Reduction Schemes Worldwide’.

What works best, the carrot or the stick?

Will producers respond best to incentives, or regulation?

The whole story about greenhouse gas and carbon credits is a confusing one, and red meat producers have a significant exposure to the market, with livestock identified as major emitters of methane, a gas seen as eighty times more potent than carbon dioxide over a twenty year time period.

Simon Quilty, market analyst and regular Gippsland Red Meat Conference presenter (pictured at the top), recently returned from a Churchill Fellowship tour studying Greenhouse Gas Emission Reduction Schemes in the USA, Canada, Netherlands, Ireland, New Zealand, and the UK. What he found was that much of Europe’s attempts at lowering methane output were about using ‘the stick’, meaning forcing farmers to comply through regulation. Mr Quilty believes the ‘carrot’ will get the best results, where farmers are rewarded for lowering methane emissions.

Mr Quilty told the Gippsland Times that Australia is at “crossroads”, and suggested that a rewards system be implemented whilst using technology to accurately measure methane production. In other words, a price value on methane reduction.

“The methane measurement is crucial,” he said.

Melbourne University Professor Richard Eckard.

Melbourne University Professor Richard Eckard, whose research focuses on how climate change affects agriculture and vice versa, told the Gippsland Times the pathway of lowering emissions for livestock businesses will come from the supply chain, rather than the government.

“By 2030, we know our supply chain will ask us to have (30 per cent) lower emissions and demonstrate it. Selling our product is the main game we’re in.”

Professor Eckard said that farmers who work with best practice and efficiently will be best-placed to meet these emission targets, with the government having a different role, with research.

“(The government’s) got to put in more research into providing farmers with those next options beyond that,” he said.

“How do we take the next step to reach those (2030) targets? What can we do to halve our methane after that? That still doesn’t exist.”

More photos from conference:

Conference attendee Alister Morris from Winnindoo said he wanted the supermarkets to lower the price of meat to help clear the backlog. Photo: Zoe Askew.
The ‘Big Farm/Little Farm’ panel: Frank Archer from Landfall Angus with Gippsland Agriculture Group board member David Caldwell, and Alister and Steph Micallef at the Sale Baptist Church. Photo: Stefan Bradley.
Conference event manager Craig Bush. Photo: Stefan Bradley.
Hannah Campbell, Traralgon and Robert Lamb, Sale. Photo: Lyric Anderson.
From left: conference speaker and consultant Nathan Scott from Inverleigh; Alister Morris, Winnindoo; Scott Langley, Glengarry; and Tim Paulet, Flynn
Nicky Hair taking a virtual tour with Greenham’s Emma Boughdon. Photo: Lyric Anderson.