Why carbon farmers are Australia's climate rockstars

Why carbon farmers are climate rockstars

When it comes to slowing down climate change, I say farmers are Australia's VIPs because they're vital in taking carbon out of the atmosphere at the scale we need to meet our Paris Agreement targets.

Turning off lights and producing renewable energy is important, but, to reduce the legacy load of carbon that's already in our atmosphere we need carbon farming.

I started carbon farming more than 15 years ago. I left a city marketing job to farm fine merino wool on 1000 acres in the Mudgee district of New South Wales. I quickly learned that every single leaf, tree and pasture absorbed carbon into its structure, to its (and the atmosphere's) benefit.

Today I advise farmers on how to earn money from carbon farming. It's a billion dollar industry in Australia and interest is growing exponentially.

It's easy to see why - ask a farmer if they'd like to improve their soil structure and its water-holding capacity and the answer is always yes. And who doesn't want a way to go into drought later, and come out of drought sooner, and get paid for it?

Soil is the largest carbon sink over which we humans have control, and we should have been doing more here a decade ago.

It's not yet as easy as it should be to make money from carbon farming, but it's not impossible. It's a long-term game with fiddly paperwork and registration, but it comes with the potential for high rewards.

As well as mitigating climate change, carbon farming unlocks jobs and stimulates local economies.

Regenerating native forests on your land requires labour for fence building and constructing firebreaks.

And once a farmer gets paid through the Emissions Reduction Fund or Land Restoration Fund, well, the carbon cheque becomes the new wool cheque.

This week at the Australasian Emissions Reduction Summit I'll talk about smoothing the way for carbon farming. I won't be sugarcoating anything - I'm not in the mood because this is too damn important.

We need tens of thousands of hectares to be absorbing carbon to make a difference. With the National Farmers Federation's net zero carbon by 2050 target, and the Morrison government highlighting carbon farming in its Technology Investment Roadmap, we have the will.

We also have the social licence to do our bit for emissions reduction.

All we need now is stronger guidance and resolution from government.

Louisa Kiely from Carbon Farmers of Australia is based in Orange, NSW, and is speaking at this week's Australasian Emissions Reduction Summit