Participation in carbon markets can provide farmers with additional revenue streams, diversified agricultural businesses, and greater resilience through the certainty of long-term purchase contracts. With this in mind, Queensland farmers are firmly a part of solution when it comes to reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the state. However, barriers exist to participation, including high administrative costs, ongoing monitoring, reporting and auditing; and a low carbon price through auctions resulting in low or negative returns for many small and medium farmers.
Queensland farmers are further limited by the small number of suitable emissions reductions methodologies which ensure the emission reductions are real and in addition to business as usual operations. This was recognised by the federal government with the Clean Energy Regulator with the recently announcing the priorities for new Emissions Reduction Fund (ERF) method determinations, including biomethane, soil carbon and blue carbon.
As well as the need for development of new methodologies, the Queensland Farmers’ Federation (QFF) has noted some omissions from existing methods. For example, QFF has been advocating for the inclusion of poultry animal effluent within the existing ERF method as a standalone resource as it will enable significant further emission abatement and investment and job creation opportunities.
Additionally, we are keen to ensure that biomethane will be dealt with in a broader manner than simply under the landfill gas method. As this approach does not serve the agricultural sector given that agricultural wastes will not then qualify as eligible waste for the creation of Australian carbon credit units. Therefore, a new ERF method is needed for biomethane that supports agriculture and the diversity that the sector represents as well as the broad range of carbon abatement and reduction opportunities it can delivered.
This new biomethane method must create credits through the destruction of fugitive emissions from agricultural waste, soil carbon sequestration using digestate to improve the carbon content of soils, and offsetting fossil fuel combustion emissions and synthetic (fossil fuel derived) fertiliser via the use of digestate as an organic replacement.
Furthermore, a change to the National Greenhouse and Energy Reporting Measurement Determination is required to enable consumers of biomethane to report a reduction in emissions if purchasing the commodity. This is critical as agriculture can do the ‘heavy lifting’ to decarbonise our economy, and biomethane is one of many technologies that agriculture can meaningfully support and participate in.
A new biomethane ERF method would improve the robustness of the agriculture sector with initial estimates showing the resource potential for biomethane derived from agricultural waste and by-products is substantial. It would also underpin investment and jobs in regional and rural Australia, particularly as bioenergy creates three times more sustainable, permanent, local jobs than some other forms of renewable technology such as solar.
Biomethane can be used a feedstock to decarbonise the transport, natural gas and manufacturing sectors, which is particularly pertinent for farms and regional areas where local fuel security needs to be strengthened. It can also be used in existing supply chains (and international export channels) without expensive infrastructure upgrades.
QFF is seeking greater consideration of bioenergy by acknowledging and supporting the added benefits to land management, reef runoff, and a reduction in agricultural emissions in the context of meeting the state’s carbon emission 2030 and 2050 targets. By assisting QFF to remove the current regulatory and policy barriers at local, state and federal level, we can ignite a spark and get agriculture moving.