Nationals MPs have snubbed a farmers’ group launching a major climate change report that warns the Australian agricultural sector faces “significant threats to viability” without a new national climate strategy.
The report, launched by the Farmers for Climate Action group at Parliament House on Monday, warns that agricultural production will fall, farm profits will decline and food insecurity will increase if the government does not come up with a cohesive national strategy on climate change and agriculture.
Lucinda Corrigan, the chair of Farmers for Climate Action, said she had wanted Nationals MPs to attend the event, saying she believed cross-party support was needed given the challenge facing producers.
“It would have been great if they had been there because they need to take this seriously,” Corrigan said.
“Because being green is actually our agenda, it’s actually a conservative agenda, being a conservationist is a conservative agenda, it is not a green agenda, it has been taken from us and we actually want it back.”
She also said Nationals MPs should consider the concerns within the agricultural sector about climate change separately to the issues affecting the energy sector.
“People see it as an and/or thing, and it is not and/or – this is something that needs to happen for the future of food and agriculture in Australia. What we do about the coal industry and the transition to clean energy is really a different conversation, even though it is equally important.”
While no Nationals MPs attended the event, the environment minister, Sussan Ley, launched the report, saying she believed it was important that conservation and agriculture were “on the same page”.
“I share the view that we face very real challenges from climate change now and in the years ahead,” she said.
“There is no question that our climate is changing, and the science on that is conclusive
Ley’s comments come after the Nationals MP David Littleproud last week cast doubt on the science of climate change, saying he was not sure if human activity was contributing.
He later said he accepted that he accepted the science.
Richard Heath, the executive director of the Australian Farm Institute, which completed the report, said that Australian agriculture needed a “national cohesive climate change strategy”.
“We need this strategy because Australian agriculture is both partly responsible for and increasingly impacted by the impacts of climate change,” Heath said.
“The pace and extent of change that the climate is now experiencing is going beyond the capacity of even the best farmers using the best practices and technologies to adapt.”
Jody Brown, a farmer from drought-riven Long reach in Queensland in Littleproud’s electorate of Maranoa, said that a growing number of farmers were recognizing the threat of climate change, but that some felt targeted in a city-country divide over the issue.
“It’s a very difficult topic for a lot of graziers and some ways it is like the frog in the boiling water because it is not immediately obvious – it has always been hot and dry up there, it is just getting hotter and drier.
But she said she believed Nationals MPs would be forced to confront the issue as support for action grew, saying she was frustrated at the lack of political will for a national strategy as politics lagged industry support.
“If politicians are not taking this seriously it is quite negligent,” she said