The Energy Savers program has been helping farmers identify energy savings on farm which also reduce carbon emissions. The program has used energy audits to identify significant savings in electricity consumption, with over 7,459,014 kWh of potential power savings identified in 180 audits. This will achieve 6,800 tonnes CO2-e of emissions savings annually, or about 38 tonnes per farm per year if all recommendations are implemented.
Agriculture contributes around 15 per cent of Australia’s carbon emissions, or around 20 per cent when emissions from Land Use, Land Use Change and Forestry (LULUCF) are included. It’s important to know emissions from Queensland agriculture decreased by 6 per cent between 2006 and 2015.
This was agricultural emissions are made up of:
- Direct emissions from the burning of fuel and diesel on farm, from the use of fertilizers, clearing vegetation, and from livestock (scope 1 emissions);
- Indirect energy emissions from the use of purchased grid electricity (scope 2 emissions); and
- Indirect emissions from supply chain, distribution, use and disposal of goods and services (scope 3 emissions) such as the purchase of seeds and the transport of produce to market.
Australia has committed to reduce greenhouse emissions by 26 per cent – 28 per cent of 2005 levels by 2030. In addition, Queensland has committed to a 30 per cent reduction in greenhouse gases by 2030 and to achieve Net Zero Emissions by 2050.
Net Zero Emissions refers to where a balance is achieved between greenhouse gas emissions produced and greenhouse gases taken out of the atmosphere. That means that there may be emissions but that they are offset by processes that remove an equivalent amount from the atmosphere – or are sequestered. For example, emissions from the use of diesel on farm could be offset by revegetating some areas with native plants which sequester carbon dioxide. Farms that have reached Net Zero Emissions are Carbon Neutral.
Adaptation and Mitigation
There is a lot of work happening in both Climate Change adaptation and mitigation and they are both important on farm.
Climate Change Adaption refers to actions that will help manage the risk of climate change impacts such as higher temperatures, increased flooding and more intensive natural disasters.
Adaptation for agriculture centres on continuous improvement in the capacity of farmers to deal with a changing climate, and ensuring the necessary tools are available. Examples of adaptation initiatives might be to make plans to improve flood defences, diversify crops, increasing shade to reduce the risk of heat stress to animals, and improve water use efficiency.
QFF led the development of a Climate Adaptation Strategy for agriculture which is the first step to address the adaptation needs of this highly diverse industry. The plan is available HERE.
Climate Change Mitigation refers to actions that reduce the impact of climate change by reducing carbon emissions, or carbon abatement such as reducing energy use, restoring soil carbon, avoiding vegetation clearing, and revegetating degraded areas.
Carbon abatement is measured in tonnes of Carbon Dioxide equivalents – or tCO2-e which includes the amount of carbon dioxide plus any other greenhouse gases standardised to number of carbon units. For example, burning diesel releases carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide and sulphur dioxide, all of which are greenhouse gases with different levels of impact.
Carbon Farming is the term given to avoiding or sequestering carbon through agricultural or land use activities such as improving soil carbon, revegetation or reduced methane emissions from livestock. QFF is currently working with NRM Regions Queensland and the Queensland Government to prepare a carbon farming handbook and fact sheets for farmers.
Financial Benefits of Carbon Abatement
There are often financial and other benefits of reducing carbon emissions on farm.
These can take the form of:
- Direct cost savings through energy efficiency and renewable energy projects such as farmers participating in the Energy Savers program; and
- Direct revenues from the sale of carbon credits through mechanisms such as the Emissions Reduction Fund (ERF) or private markets. The value of tonnes of carbon abatement contracted is determined via auction through the ERF. This value is called Australian Carbon Credit Units (ACCU) and is most recently priced at nearly $16 per ACCU. The private market is more variable.
There may also be additional revenues and benefits from carbon abatement projects such as:
- Payments for biodiversity or water quality improvement through mechanisms such as the Queensland Land Restoration Fund and Reef Credits, and
- Indirect benefits that may accrue from abatement projects such as:
- Achieving a higher gross value per ML of water through energy and water productivity initiatives;
- Improved productivity and water efficiency through soil carbon projects;
- Additional benefits of revegetation such as livestock shading, increased biodiversity and lowering water tables; and
- Potential to appeal to new customers and market new products that are low-carbon or carbon neutral.
There are 280 ERF Projects in Queensland with the potential to abate over 21.9 M tCO2-e.
In private markets, companies are looking to purchase verified carbon credits from farms, such as Microsoft, who purchased $500,000 in carbon credits from a New England grazier.
Farmers are achieving a range of benefits such by reducing emissions such as this NSW Grazier, a Hunter Valley Winery, a central Queensland Piggery as well as farms participating in the Energy Savers Program.
Measuring and Understanding Carbon Emissions
There are a number of tools available to calculate and certify carbon emissions and abatement and tools to certify carbon neutrality.
The University of Melbourne has compiled a number of Greenhouse Accounting Frameworks for a number of agricultural sectors which will assist in understanding emissions and consider abatement opportunities here.
QUT has developed a simple tool to give a quick indication of carbon footprint for a farming enterprise here.
There are a number of carbon certification tools which offer recognition of carbon neutrality such as:
- Climate Active, an Australian initiative which certifies businesses and organisations that are carbon neutral; and
- The internationally recognised Gold Standard.
How to reduce Carbon Emissions
There are many ways to reduce carbon emissions on farm including energy and fuel efficiency, reducing synthetic fertilisers, reducing enteric fermentation, improving soil carbon and increasing native vegetation.
To be eligible for ACCUs under the ERF, projects must abate carbon and report in accordance with one of the approved ERF methods. They include:
- Agricultural methods that apply to piggeries, irrigated cotton, cattle, dairy and sequestering carbon in soil;
- Vegetation methods such as avoided clearing, and reforestation;
- commercial, industrial and aggregated energy efficiency;
- capture and combustion of landfill gas and agricultural waste;
- alternative treatment of organic waste; and
- capture and combustion of biogas from wastewater.
These methods outline the process of abating carbon as well as the requirements for measuring the amount of abatement. There are a number of other methods under development including a method for producing bioenergy.
Understand and reduce carbon emissions on your farm with these next steps:
- Understand your carbon footprint. Start simple to get a general understanding then consider doing a more detailed analysis. There are some simple carbon calculators available to help.
- Consider developing a detailed carbon footprint baseline for your farm using an accepted methodology so that you may be eligible to claim credits for abatement.
- Think about areas where carbon emissions can be reduced, or carbon abatement can occur on the farm.
- Fuel efficiency through farm vehicles and diesel irrigation;
- Reducing electricity consumption through improved efficiency;
- Purchasing or installing your own renewable energy; and
- Carbon farming: Improving soil carbon, revegetating or allowing native vegetation to re-establish.
- Research revenue opportunities for carbon abatement.
- Join in webinars on topics such as this series Carbon Farming series presented by QFF, NRM Regions Queensland and the Queensland Government here; and
- Identify potential customers that are looking for low-carbon products.
- Think of some of the added benefits of carbon abatement.
- Increasing soil carbon may increase soil water holding and reduce the amount of irrigation required;
- Improving water and energy use efficiency will reduce the cost of energy and water per unit of produce; and
- Check whether your projects could be eligible for other initiatives such as the land restoration fund.
- Consider and set your own farm emissions reduction targets
- Start with the biggest carbon emitters to make early reductions or low cost projects;
- Consider meeting or exceeding our State and Commonwealth targets; and
- Gain carbon neutral certification for the business and/or certain products.
Reducing carbon emissions may reduce costs and increase productivity, while helping reduce the impacts of climate change, contribute to our state and national targets and may even lead to a new source of revenue for your farm.
Please contact the Energy Savers team for any further information.