Climate targets should recognise cattle aren’t “one-way” emitters, ICMJ told

James Nason, 08/04/2024

There is a serious need to review and modernise the Australian cattle industry’s emissions targets to prevent cattle from being  incorrectly “lumped in” with one-way fossil fuel emitters, Cattle Australia deputy chair Adam Coffey told last week’s ICMJ Northern Conference in Rockhampton.

Adam Coffey addressing the 2024 ICMJ northern conference in Rockhampton last week.

Cattle Australia, the peak industry body for Australia’s grassfed cattle industry, is currently working to develop an industry road map that will clearly articulate where the Australian cattle industry is planning to head in relation to sustainability measures, including emissions targets, he said.

“We’re seeking better recognition of the cyclical nature of our emissions,” Mr Coffey told the conference.

“At the moment at a Government level, international level, even at the industry level with our current targets (such as CN30), we are measuring ourselves as a one-way emitter, and so we’re lumped in there with energy, transport, fossil fuel emitters.”

This was despite there being recognition from independent scientists that current greenhouse gas accounting systems overstate the warming potential of short-lived climate gases such as methane emissions from stable herds of cattle by 300 to 400 percent.

“It is really time to seriously review and modernise our industry emissions targets because nobody else is going to do this for us,” he said.

“Government and other sectors are very happy to continue to regard us as a big problem that has to be dealt with.”

He also pointed to several key developments that show emissions accounting systems either in place or coming that are set to directly impact the Australian cattle industry.

The Labor Government is introducing its flagship industrial carbon reduction scheme, known as the National Energy and Greenhouse Reporting Act, which will require mandatory reporting of emissions over 100,000t, which is likely to include larger pastoral companies.

The Global Methane Pledge is a commitment for signatories, which now includes Australia, to achieve an absolute reduction in methane emissions by 30 percent.

Public demands on companies, including downstream users of Australian beef, to report Scope 3 emissions in future are also mounting.

He said Cattle Australia has determined that it is a time to pause, take stock and evaluate what is needed to ensure the Australian cattle industry is operating in a fair and level playing field.

He said the cattle industry is unique in its ability to sequester large amounts of carbon and should be recognised as a solution provider to government and other sectors to help them achieve their net zero aspirations.

“We’ve done a lot and will continue to do so, but we’re not jumping at targets again until we clearly understand our net position,” he told Beef Central.





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  1. David Stanley Lovelock, 12/04/2024

    Good on Adam Coffey and CA for highlighting the idea that cattle only emit carbon base molecules . Cattle must be recognised as carbon sinks as part of the short term cycle . The carbon they emit as methane and co2 was in the air during the last plant growing season and that the methane half life is around 2 years . i.e. within 2 years one of every two molecules of methane is broken down into water and co2 molecules , and almost all within 12 years.

  2. Rob Atkinson, 09/04/2024

    Pretty simple really.
    Plant renewal is what is required for carbon sequestration. Two things renew perennial plants. Fire and pruning. Pruning is achieved either by mechanical means or livestock.
    Cows are the best natural pruners as they create plant renewal when they eat grass, forbes and legumes.
    We need people like Andrew Zerner educating people about this subject, dense grazing and rest.

  3. Lloyd Dunlop, 09/04/2024

    It’s interesting how corrupt the Carbon accounting (and therefore the politics of Carbon) is when you consider even the fossil fuels (gas, oil and coal) existed on earth’s surface as vegetation at an earlier time before burial. No new carbon! Just a slower carbon cycle than Cattle methane. If Carbon is life and life depends on Carbon, what can we conclude about the politics of Carbon?

  4. David Hill, 09/04/2024

    There are a lot of solution providers out there that will and have seen the opportunity in the ‘cash cow’(pun intended). It has become a well established business model to piggy back off of our detractors. I fear there is a lot of money to be made in the current environment. Most of what is being suggested in the feed additive space has been tried before and by all reports even now the numbers don’t stack up, but it is likely that due to our reluctance to resource a positive rebuttal appropriately we will risk capitulation again. Look at the current deforestation challenge, there are actually people that believe regrowth control is deforestation!
    As a Queensland landholder I don’t think it is up to industry and the mostly volunteers like Adam Coffey that represent us to firstly defend the compliance to jurisdictional vegetation laws, their job is to demonstrate the positive narrative of a sustainable high quality protein that is essential in the ongoing challenge of global food security. As to the matter at hand, if we don’t appropriately resource a response to the emissions and sustainability challenges we will end up paying to have someone do it for us. Access to capital at a competitive rate is potentially a great risk for our industry, the finance institutions that we rely so heavily upon will likely see an opportunity to further increase a risk margin, that coupled with the expense of demonstrating compliance to ESG goals is money that would be better spent on improving upon what we currently do better than most!

  5. Innes Baird, 08/04/2024

    Walter Jehne is an ex csiro scientist and he says the pasture the cows are eating is capable of absorbing 100 times the amount of methane a cow can emit
    This means cow methane is a non issue as it is reused by the cows themselves
    Plants love co2 and methane
    Nature is smarter than humans

  6. David Dwyer, 08/04/2024

    Agree Adam, the industry needs to build the matrix for carbon reduction, as the system thus far is very difficult for anyone but the large corporates to even contemplate. (It all about comes down to the accounting method and we need to be comparing apples with apples )

  7. Bill Cameron, 08/04/2024

    This thinking is long overdue.
    Cows have positive carbon footprint and it has been known for a while.
    Methane from animals was and always will be…not a continuous out pouring as fossil fuels are.

  8. Frank Yeo, 08/04/2024

    You should make a television documentary about this issue and show globally

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