Our former CVOs frequently engage with policy makers to give a voice to all animals. In this letter, they wrote to Minister Littleproud, advocating for a National Ruminant Emissions Reduction Program (NRERP).
Reducing Livestock Emissions
Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from agriculture (excluding fisheries and aquaculture) account for about 15% of Australia’s total GHG emissions (equivalent to 76.5 million tonnes of carbon dioxide-equivalents, CO2-e). Of all emissions from agriculture, livestock accounts for about 78%: grazing beef cattle contribute 44%, sheep 18%, dairy 10%, grain-fed beef 3%, pigs 2% and other animals 1%. The remainder is contributed by crops (5%), fertiliser (7%) and fuel (9%).1
It is clear that agricultural industries will need to reduce on-farm emissions to levels that are consistent with achieving the national target. To do this, the cattle and sheep industries, as the major source of such emissions, will need to develop and implement effective emissions reduction strategies. Many strategies that improve production performance also reduce methane emissions; a win–win situation. Although considerable research and development and planning work has been done by individual industries, the Former Chief Veterinary Officers Group, which works with Veterinarians for Climate Action, believes a coordinated National Ruminant Emissions Reduction Program (NRERP) is required to ensure that targets are achieved.
The first step in developing a national program is to establish a government–industry Working Group to shape such a program, consider how it would operate and identify how it could be supported. The veterinary profession is prepared to take a leadership role in this process, in contributing to the Working Group, and in ensuring that Australia profits from its range of possible benefits. The proposed terms of reference of the Working Group are, in collaboration with beef, dairy and sheep industry groups, State/Territory departments of agriculture, Animal Health Australia, and the Australian Veterinary Association, to:
- Establish levels of on-farm emissions that are compatible with achieving the national target.
- Identify technical, husbandry, land management and other approaches for each industry that will enable producers to achieve the agreed level.
- Describe financial assistance measures that may be required to enable producers to adopt emission-reducing practices.
- Identify areas that need further research to help reduce emissions from the different ruminant farming systems in Australia.
- Outline an education and extension program for veterinarians and producers as well as a communications program for consumers in Australia and overseas.
- Describe a national coordinating framework to oversee the implementation of the program.
- Provide options for funding assistance measures and administrative support for the program.
The Working Group would report to the Federal Government in six months.
1 Grattan Institute (2021) Towards net Zero: practical policies to reduce agricultural emissions. Grattan Institute, Carlton. https://grattan.edu.au/wp-content/uploads/2021/10/Towards-net-zero-A-practical-plan-for-Australia-s-governments.pd