Program 1.1: Tackling climate change
The objectives of this program are to:
- strengthen the capacity for primary producers to adapt and adjust to a changing climate while increasing productivity
- allow Australian farmers and land managers to participate in, and benefit from, the carbon crediting scheme by generating carbon offset credits that can be sold in domestic and international carbon markets.
Review of performance
This review addresses the deliverables identified in the 2011–12 Portfolio Budget Statements. Table 2 summarises the extent to which we have met key performance indicators.
Securing a clean energy future
In support of national policies, we continued to work with the agriculture, fisheries and forestry industries to tackle climate change under three broad areas—research, demonstration and outreach. These were delivered as part of:
- the Australia's Farming Future initiative, which ended on 30 June 2012
- the new Carbon Farming Futures program, which commenced during the year under the Securing a Clean Energy Future plan
- the Carbon Farming Initiative.
Australia's Farming Future
2011–12 was the final year of the four-year Australia's Farming Future initiative. Since July 2008, the government has invested $135.7 million to equip primary producers to respond to the physical, social and economic impacts of climate change.
Supporting adaptation to climate change
The Climate Change Adaptation Partnerships Program (CCAPP) invested $48.8 million over four years to provide primary industries with tools and techniques to adapt to climate change and manage their emissions. The program helped primary producers to manage the impacts of climate change. It included FarmReady, Community Networks and Capacity Building and information services.
FarmReady provided opportunities for primary producers, industry, farming groups and natural resource management groups to further increase their self-reliance and preparedness to deal with the impacts of climate change. Funding was available through:
- FarmReady Reimbursement Grants for primary producers, wild game harvesters and Indigenous land managers
- FarmReady Industry Grants for industry, farming groups and natural resource management groups.
Training and skills development
FarmReady Reimbursement Grants supported training for primary producers, wild game harvesters and Indigenous land managers. It aimed to improve planning and risk and business management and to increase adoption of new technologies and best practice methods. By the end of 2011–12, more than 22 300 individuals had received assistance through these grants.
In 2011–12, the government introduced co-contribution funding, with producers reimbursed for up to 65 per cent of their course cost and the existing reimbursement cap remaining unchanged at $1500. This expansion extended the availability of funds, made the program accessible to more producers and provided greater opportunities for producers to actively address their learning and education needs.
By June 2012, there were more than 480 approved courses available, covering 10 key learning areas. We approved more than 8150 participants for training during the year.
The reimbursement grants program successfully provided opportunities for producers to realise the benefits that quality training provides to themselves and their enterprises. In March 2012, the government announced its Skills for All Australians reform plan, which will provide new opportunities for producers to access the skills and qualifications they need.Industry self-reliance and preparedness
FarmReady Industry Grants aimed to increase industry self-reliance and preparedness to adapt to climate change and climate variability. These grants provided funding for collaborative projects by agriculture, fishing and forestry industry organisations, natural resource management groups and producer groups. By the end of 2011–12, FarmReady had provided $8.19 million for 64 projects.
Community Networks and Capacity Building
For people living and working in rural, regional and remote Australia the changing climate provides both challenges and opportunities. The Community Networks and Capacity Building program aimed to build the leadership and representative capacity of targeted groups, including young people, women, Indigenous Australians and people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds.
By the end of 2011–12, the program had provided up to $13.34 million through Recognising Women Farmers and Next Gen Farmers grants, supporting more than 260 projects.
DAFF continued to work with stakeholders and experts to encourage the uptake of assistance and training opportunities available through the Australia's Farming Future initiative.
Communication in 2011–12 focused on raising industry awareness and educating primary producers and their influencers about the research projects that received funding through the initiative's Climate Change Research Program (CCRP). This was achieved through a $1.2 million national program of information sessions and the production of a complementary suite of DVDs and written case studies on the research outcomes.
More than 550 primary producers attended 20 events held around the country. CCRP materials and speakers were also provided for a further 25 events coordinated by local and industry bodies. Almost all surveyed participants (96 per cent) said the event improved their understanding of the CCRP and more than half (58 per cent) said they would change their farm practices after hearing about the research. Additional awareness raising will be achieved through the dissemination of the DVDs and use of the case studies, which will be made available on our website.
Supporting adjustment to climate change
The Climate Change Adjustment Program (CCAP) helps primary producers in financial difficulty to manage the impacts of climate change and to consider their future, either on or off the farm. Assistance is provided through advice and training grants, re-establishment grants and the Transitional Income Support Program.
In 2011–12, the CCAP provided 1042 farmers (including Transitional Income Support recipients) with advice and training grants of up to $5500 for professional advice and training relating directly or indirectly to climate change. Rural financial counsellors worked with 1027 Transitional Income Support recipients to develop an action plan for managing the impacts of climate change and improving their farm's long-term prospects.
Transitional Income Support payments assisted 766 farmers in serious financial difficulty. The assistance was available for up to 12 months and was paid at a rate equivalent to the Newstart Allowance. The program ended on 30 June 2012.
A new Transitional Farm Family Payment commenced on 11 May 2012. This payment, also paid at the same rate as Newstart, assists farm families that are experiencing financial difficulty to manage the impacts of climate variability and market fluctuations.
Transitional Farm Family Payments will be available until 30 June 2014. Eligible Transitional Income Support recipients who had received less than 12 months assistance when that program closed on 30 June 2012 were automatically transferred to the new payment for the remainder of their entitlement period.
Tackling climate change through research
The Climate Change Research Program supported innovative research and on-farm demonstration to help primary industries respond to climate change. The projects were funded and delivered in partnership with research providers, industry groups, universities and state governments. By the end of 2011–12, the government had committed $46.2 million to 50 large scale collaborative research projects under five subprograms:
- reducing methane and nitrous oxide emissions
- improving soil management
- climate change adaptation
- demonstration activities.
The total value of the investment by all partners was approximately $130 million.
The CCRP provided key messages about practical management options that will help farmers reduce emissions and respond to climate variability. Key outcomes included:
- identification of where potential productivity benefits could be achieved by reducing emissions across a broad range of primary production systems
- support for the development of agriculture specific offset methodologies that land managers can use to benefit from the Carbon Farming Initiative
- assisting Australia to meet its international commitment to improving its National Greenhouse Accounts
- providing an important foundation for the Carbon Farming Futures Filling the Research Gap program.
From 2011–12, ABARES provided research management services to improve program outcomes from the CCRP, including scientific assessments of the progress reports provided by the research partners.
Greenhouse gas emissions—methane
CCRP partners invested approximately $28 million in the Reducing Emissions from Livestock Research Program. The program helped develop Australia's ability to measure methane emissions from livestock, as well as researching a range of mitigation techniques including genetic, feed and microbiological approaches. Research from the program is underpinning the development of offset methodologies for the livestock sector under the Carbon Farming Initiative.
Greenhouse gas emissions—nitrous oxide
The $10.8 million Nitrous Oxide Research Program, which included investments from research partners, established an internationally recognised benchmark for the measurement of nitrous oxide emissions. The program established a network of sites linking the major agricultural production systems in Queensland, Victoria, New South Wales and Western Australia. Automated sampling systems at these sites measure greenhouse gas emissions every hour, taking samples of methane, carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide from the soil. This technology has enabled researchers to develop a profile of nitrous oxide emissions and to identify potential opportunities to reduce emissions from a range of locations and production systems, including under sugar cane, cropping, dairy pasture and cotton.
Improving soil management
The $22.09 million Soil Carbon Research Program, which included investments from research partners, developed a sampling and analysis methodology that has been applied nationally. Under the program, soil samples were collected from approximately 3500 locations in agricultural production systems (predominantly from farm paddocks). This data will improve Australia's ability to estimate changes in soil carbon levels and will contribute to the development of a soil carbon measurement protocol that could be used in future offset methodologies under the Carbon Farming Initiative.
Biochar is made by heating organic materials, such as wood or crop waste, in a low oxygen environment. It can be added to soil to sequester carbon and has the potential to help mitigate Australia's greenhouse gas emissions while benefiting agricultural production by improving soil health.
The $3.02 million National Biochar Initiative, which included investments from research partners, was a national effort to address key aspects of biochar production and how biochar is applied to land use in Australian agriculture. The initiative was able to draw together leading researchers in Australia in the areas of biochar, bioenergy, soil science, emissions management and life cycle assessment. The initiative characterised 80 different types of biochar. The characteristics are being used to develop guidelines for the types of biochar to be used in different conditions, depending on the outcomes desired from the application. Some biochars provide more agronomic benefits, while others are better for sequestering carbon.
Adaptation Research Program
We delivered a $38.9 million Adaptation Research Program, including investments from research partners, through 10 projects to help farmers and primary industries develop management practices and strategies to better manage the effects of climate change. The projects covered six themes:
- innovative climate-ready crops
- cropping management systems
- industry opportunities
- perennial horticulture
- livestock systems
- fishery systems.
Projects have delivered a better understanding of how to manage livestock to minimise animal heat stress under more frequent and longer periods of extreme heat. For example, research showed that feeding low doses of the nutrient betaine can reduce the impact of heat stress in sheep, while higher doses can increase heat stress.
They have also given the grazing industry insights into the way practices can be adapted to a warming climate and higher carbon dioxide levels. For example, research on climate change adaptation for southern livestock industries has shown that strategies such as using alternative pasture species, or introducing confinement feeding, could improve productivity by countering the impacts of shorter growing seasons.
Seven demonstration projects were established to show how new technologies and practices could be incorporated into farming systems and the food supply chain to reduce emissions and adapt to a changing climate.
The CCRP partners, together with the Australian Government, invested $27.08 million to fund the development of a national network of field sites, targeting intensive (dairy, pork, horticulture) and extensive (broadacre cropping, grazing) production systems, as well as the food processing sector. These field sites have facilitated the collection of key production data and raised awareness among farmers and processors through field days, workshops and case studies.
Demonstration of methane capture and flaring from covered waste water lagoons directly supported the development of the first methodology approved under the Carbon Farming Initiative—methane flaring in piggeries. This methodology on manure management provides opportunities for piggeries to earn carbon credits through the emissions reductions achieved by the activity. Destroying methane in piggeries also allows pork producers to generate clean energy onsite, reducing their energy costs. This is an excellent example of the progression from research to demonstration to a practical tool that encourages mitigation by landholders.
Evaluation of the Climate Change Research Program
ABARES is evaluating the extent to which the CCRP met the objective of the Australia's Farming Future initiative and achieved the intended outcomes. The ABARES report is expected in December 2012.
Global collaboration on climate change research
We represent Australia as a member of the Global Research Alliance on Agricultural Greenhouse Gases. The alliance is a collective of developed and developing countries seeking to share and collaborate on research, technology and information relating to reducing agricultural emissions.
Australia has participated in the alliance primarily through the Australia's Farming Future Climate Change Research Program. Future contributions will relate to the Carbon Farming Futures program.
During 2011–12, we contributed to the alliance by providing $299 170 to support an Australia–Chile project under the International Agricultural Cooperation Program. The project was developed by the Queensland University of Technology in partnership with the Chilean Institute of Agricultural Research. The four-month project finished on 31 May 2012 and supported the training of Chilean scientists in the establishment and use of automated greenhouse gas measurement equipment. Research findings from this project will be shared with the alliance.
'Victorian Mallee Dust Storm'—the winning image in the Our Events category of the 2012 DAFF Photo Competition
Taken by Kate Hickey.
Clean Energy Future—creating opportunities on the land—extending the benefits of the Carbon Farming Initiative
The Securing a Clean Energy Future plan, announced in July 2011, builds on the work of Australia's Farming Future to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and drive investment in renewable energy. The plan contains four elements:
- introducing a carbon price
- promoting innovation and investment in renewable energy
- encouraging energy efficiency
- creating opportunities in the land sector to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (the Land Sector Package).
The $1.7 billion Land Sector Package is a long-term approach to action on the land that provides opportunities for landholders to access proven technologies and management practices that will reduce emissions, reduce input costs and increase the sustainability of the land sector.
DAFF, together with the Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency (DCCEE), the Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities (SEWPaC) and the Australian Taxation Office (ATO), is responsible for the Land Sector Package.
Figure 15 depicts the split of responsibilities for the Land Sector Package.
Carbon Farming Futures
The Carbon Farming Futures program of the Land Sector Package invests $429 million over six years to ensure that advances in emissions reduction technologies and techniques support the evolution of land management practices towards emissions reduction while maintaining productivity. These advances will allow farmers and other land managers to benefit from the economic opportunities of the Carbon Farming Initiative (CFI).
The department is primarily responsible for three components of Carbon Farming Futures and jointly responsible for a fourth:
- Filling the Research Gap—funding of $201 million to support research into abatement options and the development of a Land Management Practice Survey to support the additionality test under the CFI
- Action on the Ground—funding of $99 million to assist with the on-farm trial and demonstration of practices and technologies to reduce agricultural sector greenhouse gas emissions and/or increase sequestration of carbon in soil
- Extension and Outreach—funding of $64 million to provide technical information and support to farmers and other land managers, to help them participate in carbon farming activities and the CFI
- Conservation tillage refundable tax offset—the government is providing a 15 per cent refundable tax offset for new conservation seeding equipment installed between 1 July 2012 and 30 June 2015. The ATO is delivering this $44 million program in conjunction with the department.
Carbon Farming Initiative
The CFI commenced on 8 December 2011, establishing a carbon offset market so that Australian farmers and landholders can earn carbon credits by voluntarily reducing land sector greenhouse gas emissions or sequestering carbon in their landscape. CFI credits can be sold into domestic and international markets for carbon offsets.
As well as establishing a carbon crediting scheme, we are facilitating participation in the carbon market through two programs:
- the $2 million Biochar Capacity Building Program
- the $4 million CFI Communications Program.
We continued to work with DCCEE to develop offset methodologies that landholders can apply to generate credits, develop regulations and finalise details for the schemes integrity standards. These details are needed to ensure CFI credits maintain credibility and to ensure the scheme focuses on projects that generate genuine additional abatement.
Developing offset methodologies
We have taken a key role in the development of CFI offset methodologies with broad application for the agricultural portfolio. The department had an active role in the development of the piggeries and environmental plantings methodologies and is continuing to progress methodologies for fertiliser management, livestock manure management, livestock feed supplementation and soil carbon.
We funded two key projects to support methodology development using the remaining Australia's Farming Future's Climate Change Research Program funds. These were:
- $96 000 to Meat and Livestock Australia for the development of a methodology to reduce methane emissions through changed intensive livestock feeding regimes
- $50 000 to improve nitrous oxide modelling capability to support future methodologies for improving fertiliser efficiency.
Other CFI activities
Like all carbon offset schemes worldwide, the CFI must meet internationally recognised integrity standards to ensure that all credits generated are the result of the initiative. To meet the 'additionality' standard, the Australian Government legislated for the use of a common practice assessment. This test is designed to verify that on-farm emissions reduction or sequestration activities are not common practice and are therefore additional activities for the purpose of generating CFI credits.
ABARES is developing a scientifically sound test to assess additionality of practices under the CFI. Over the next six years, it will collate data using this test and deliver assessments to the Domestic Offsets Integrity Committee. ABARES will release a report on the common practice test in early 2012–13 and has begun delivering its first common practice assessments to the committee.
The department has also been allocated $30.5 million over six years under the Filling the Research Gap Program to engage the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) to undertake a biennial Land Management Practice Survey, which will provide data necessary to underpin the common practice additionality test for the CFI. The ABS will undertake the first survey in August 2012, with results to be released in June 2013. The ABS will also conduct two subsequent surveys within a six-year period to provide time series information on the implementation and take up of on-farm emission reduction activities.
Research into abatement technologies and practices
Filling the Research Gap
The Filling the Research Gap program will fund research into abatement technologies and practices that reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the land sector, store carbon in the landscape and enhance sustainable agricultural practices. The research outcomes will support the development of offset methodologies under the CFI.
The program will build on research undertaken through the CCRP. Research projects will target current research gaps around abatement technologies and practices, identified through the CCRP, and aim to deliver practical options for land managers.
On 17 May 2012, the minister announced 58 successful projects under the first round of the program. These projects will share $47.3 million in funding and cover five themes:
- reducing livestock methane emissions
- reducing emissions from manure
- reducing nitrous oxide emissions from soil
- increasing soil carbon
- improving modelling capability.
These projects are being undertaken around Australia by 63 partner organisations, including state government departments, research and development corporations, universities and private industry.
ABARES will provide research management services to improve outcomes from the program. This will include the provision of scientific advice, research assessments and research summaries for use in fact sheets and technical brochures. The same approach was used successfully during the CCRP.
Biochar Capacity Building Program
The $2 million Biochar Capacity Building Program will assist Australian farmers and other landholders to understand how biochar can reduce Australia's emissions and inform the development of offset methodologies for the CFI. On 24 April 2012, the minister announced five successful biochar projects.
Demonstrating on-farm actions
The Action on the Ground program assists land managers to demonstrate on-farm abatement technologies, strategies and management practices that reduce agricultural greenhouse gas emissions and/or sequester carbon in soil and enhance sustainable and productive agriculture.
In May 2012, the minister announced funding of $25.2 million for 59 projects. These will be undertaken on more than 400 properties, representing most agricultural sectors. Land managers will work with farm and grower groups, universities, government agencies, research and development corporations and private industry to trial and demonstrate on-farm practices and technologies on their properties.
Communicating to farmers
We are supporting farmers and land managers to reduce emissions and store carbon in the landscape, by providing credible, clear and consistent information about carbon farming and the CFI.
Through the $4 million CFI Communications Program, the department provided funding for Regional Landcare Facilitators (RLFs) in natural resource management regions to disseminate and deliver information on the CFI. In 2011–12, 52 of the 56 RLF host organisations chose to participate. These RLFs have been actively delivering information through 108 events (as of 30 June 2012) including workshops, forums, information sessions, farm visits, field days and communication materials.
We have developed the Carbon Farming Futures Extension and Outreach program, with a view towards opening competitive funding rounds in 2012–13. The program is being informed by examining existing outreach and extension networks and the potential of using these networks to provide technical information on the Carbon Farming Futures program and the CFI . We delivered a series of workshops for farm advisors in regional centres around Australia in May–June 2012 to raise awareness about the CFI and to determine their knowledge requirements. The department also continued developing and distributing a range of written materials, including brochures, and has commissioned a suite of case studies that will provide guidance to people considering undertaking CFI projects.
Key performance indicators
|Key performance indicator||2011–12 target||Achievement|
Climate Change Adaptation Partnerships Program
Deliver FarmReady Reimbursement grants
3 200 grants
Performance. We paid 6180 reimbursement grants in 2011–12.
Support targeted Community Networks and Capacity Building activities and projects
Performance: We funded 59 projects in 2011–12.
Develop and implement communications strategy
Communications activities completed
Performance: Communications activities were implemented in 2009–10 and 2010–11 and completed in 2011–12.
Climate Change Adjustment Program
Transitional Income Support claims processed in accordance with the protocol agreed with Centrelink
Performance: We processed all claims in accordance with the protocol.
Rural Financial Counselling Service
Performance: We case managed all grantees and followed an action plan.
Climate Change Research Program
Undertake large scale collaborative research projects with cross-sectoral application
All projects finalised
Performance: The four-year program ended on 30 June 2012, successfully finalising 50 large scale collaborative research projects. The key research outcomes from the CCRP provide valuable links between science and policy development as well as practical management options available to farmers to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and respond to climate variability.
Carbon Farming Initiative Landcare Communications
Through the Landcare framework, communicate information to land managers about the operation of the carbon offset market and its benefits by:
Performance: Fifty-two of the 56 natural resource management (NRM) regions accepted grants and participated in the program. We held more than 90 communications activities for farmers and land managers in NRM regions around Australia. In June 2012, we also held a CFI forum for Regional Landcare Facilitators.
Biochar Capacity Building Program
Undertake collaborative projects to explore the potential of biochar
Minimum of 2 projects/packages
Performance: The minister approved a total of five projects in 2011–12. These projects will run to 2013–14. This is a new indicator.
Clean Energy Future—Creating Opportunities on the Land—extending the benefits of the Carbon Farming Initiative
Filling the Research Gap–Support large scale collaborative research projects with cross-sectoral application
Minimum of 12 projects
Performance: The minister approved a total of 58 projects under round one of the program. Projects will run to 30 June 2015. This is a new indicator.
Action on the Ground–Support land managers to undertake on-farm projects to trial and demonstrate practices and technologies, to reduce agricultural greenhouse gas emissions and/or to sequester carbon in soil
Minimum of 45 projects
Performance: The minister approved a total of 59 projects under round one of the program. Projects will run to 2014–15. This is a new indicator.
Extension and Outreach–Provide coordinated communication activities, technical information and support for land managers to participate in the Carbon Farming Initiative and benefit from carbon farming
Baseline of carbon farming and Carbon Farming Initiative awareness in farmers and land managers
Performance: We set up systems to achieve the key performance indicator. We formulated the implementation plan, extension plan and communications strategy, all of which were informed by extensive baseline studies of farmers' attitudes and information seeking habits, researched through survey and workshops. This is a new indicator.
Minister/parliamentary secretary and executive satisfied with the quality and timeliness of policy advice and support
High level of satisfaction achieved
Performance: DAFF has provided extensive policy advice and support to the minister and parliamentary secretary that has received a high level of satisfaction. This is a new indicator.
Outlook for 2012–13
A priority will be to progress the development of offset methodologies to enable farmers and land managers to draw upon a range of activities for participating in the CFI. Finalising the framework for assessing additionality will be critically important to the initiative's success.
Further funding rounds will be an important part of business under Carbon Farming Futures. The first round for the Extension and Outreach Program will open in the second half of 2012, offering extension networks the opportunity to increase the number of extension officers trained in carbon farming issues, as well as funds to expand existing carbon farming extension activities.
The second funding round for the Filling the Research Gap program will open in the second half of 2012. The research priorities for funding will be drawn from the program's research strategy, which will be released prior to the funding round. The second funding round for the Action on the Ground Program will open in early 2013. This will provide further opportunities for land managers to work in partnership with industry, researchers and government agencies to trial and demonstrate on-farm practices for technologies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and/or increase carbon sequestered in soil.
The application and survey process for farmers wanting to take advantage of the 15 per cent refundable tax offset for conservation tillage equipment will be available from July 2012.