Farmers for Climate Action launch Regional Horizons proposal

Climate: Regional Horizons is the FCA's call for the government to inject stimulus into rural Australia as part of the COVID-19 recovery strategy. Photo: Shutterstock
Climate: Regional Horizons is the FCA's call for the government to inject stimulus into rural Australia as part of the COVID-19 recovery strategy. Photo: Shutterstock

A national body representing farmers advocating for climate change have launched a new $1.8 billion package outlining areas they would like to the government take action with.

On June 10, Farmers for Climate Action launched Regional Horizons.

The report calls for:

  • The delivery of the National Climate Change and Agriculture Work Plan, which is already under development. Done well, the plan could play an important role coordinating efforts to promote climate-smart agriculture and build regional resilience to drought, fire and other mounting risks
  • A Land and Environment Investment Fund, working from the successful Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC), to support innovation, attract large-scale investment, reward ecosystem services, and promote climate solutions for farmers. A thriving landscape carbon industry alone would generate up to $10.4 billion in revenue and create up to 15,750 jobs by 2030.
  • A Regional Resilience Hub Network to strengthen and diversify existing learning networks, encourage innovation, and empower regional communities with choices in a changing climate.
  • A Regional Energy Transition Program, to promote and support community-based, clean energy developments, and modernise and decentralise power grids.

FCA CEO Wendy Cohen said Regional Horizons is their call to action for the government to inject stimulus into rural and regional Australia as part of the recovery strategy coming out of COVID-19.

Ms Cohen said the FCA believe the four key areas have huge potential for investment in initiatives, infrastructure and funding mechanisms to support a thriving and resilient rural and regional Australia.

"It's really important the whole country acknowledges recognises rural and regional Australia's contribution to the entire nation and its value to the economy and... the importance that farming communities play in leading the recovery," she said.

Ms Cohen said now is the time to use the COVID-19 recovery period as the 'golden era' of embracing new technology, low carbon solutions and building a cleaner, sustainable future for the country.

"The beauty of Regional Horizons... is (it's) ready-made. A lot of the ideas, on-farm solutions and practices are already in existence...," she said.

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Minister for Energy and Emissions Reduction Angus Taylor said since 2014, the Emissions Reduction Fund has purchased over $500 million worth of abatement from projects in regional and rural areas.

"An additional $1.4 billion is already committed to projects in regional and rural areas and further funding is available under the Climate Solutions Fund," he said. "The Government is building on the success of the ERF through the new $2 billion Climate Solutions Fund.

"The Climate Solutions Fund will create new opportunities for regional communities, farmers and businesses to support jobs and develop new income streams."

Climate: Farmers for Climate Action CEO Wendy Cohen (pictured) said Regional Horizons is their call to action for the government to inject stimulus into rural regional. Photo: Supplied

Climate: Farmers for Climate Action CEO Wendy Cohen (pictured) said Regional Horizons is their call to action for the government to inject stimulus into rural regional. Photo: Supplied

Minister for Energy and the Environment, Matt Kean said on 12 June he met with representatives of Farmers for Climate Action and reaffirmed the NSW Government's commitment to action on climate change.

"Our emissions reduction and clean energy initiatives must enhance, not undermine, the prosperity and quality of life enjoyed by the people of NSW," he said.

"The NSW Net Zero Plan Stage One: 2020-2030 will support the uptake of proven low emissions technologies and practices in the agriculture sector. The Plan will be a catalyst for more than $11.6 billion of new investment in NSW, including $7 billion in regional NSW."

Mr Kean said farmers will be supported to participate in carbon markets, providing access to additional sources of income.

"The Department will consult with Farmers for Climate Action during the development of programs across the Plan, along with other stakeholders in the agriculture sector," he said.

"Renewable Energy Zones, a key component of the NSW Electricity Strategy, are expected to unlock a significant pipeline of large-scale renewable energy and storage projects in regional areas, while supporting up to $23 billion of private sector investment in our regions and up to 2,000 construction jobs each year.

"REZs can also help to drought-proof traditional farming communities by providing alternative income streams through hosting energy infrastructure on underused land.

Mr Kean said the Regional Community Energy Fund has already provided $15.4 million in grant funding for renewable energy projects, supporting regional communities to take control over their energy bills and benefit from the transition to a modern energy system.

Ms Cohen said there are packages across other Australian sectors with various government programs and funding schemes for COVID-19 recovery, so believes agriculture and rural and regional Australia should be included.

Robert Lee, of Larras Lee near Molong has been a strong advocate of climate change for many years and said for him to see the launch of Regional Horizons was "exciting."

"It's exciting to see a group pulling all the different strands together and putting up a comprehensive recommendation to government to how we might move forward," he said.

"You get the feeling a lot of people are throwing their hands in the air and a lot of people saying the opposite. (But) This is a rational, clear call for action."

Mr Lee believes planning and policy must come from the government and urged those with strong feelings about climate change to make it known to their local representative.

The Western Magazine put forward questions to Federal Agriculture Minister David Littleproud and Federal Minister for the Environment Sussan Ley for comment.

As well as NSW Minister for Agriculture and Western NSW Adam Marshall.

They did not respond in time of the article being published online.