Spotlight Activity: Australian Farmers Push for More Climate Action
In 2016 more than 1,300 Australian farmers were surveyed for their views on climate change by a small group of concerned agriculturists. Nine out of ten respondents were concerned about damage to the planet’s climate from human activities. Nine out of ten farmers also wanted more action from their political representatives. These results were hand-delivered to politicians in Canberra, Australia’s capital by the newly-formed Farmers for Climate Action – the first advocacy group of its kind in Australia. Fast forward to 2018 and Farmers for Climate Action has a visible presence in the national media, has sent representatives to UN climate talks and is playing a crucial role by facilitating constructive dialogue between farmers and their elected representatives.
Traditionally, farmers have been a politically conservative group in Australia, and rural areas are overwhelmingly represented in parliament by National Party MPs (which partners with the Liberal Party to form the so-called “Coalition” – currently Australia’s governing group). In the last few years a widening rift has opened between farmers and the National Party: while farmers are starting to agitate for more climate action, many National MPs have taken an unashamedly pro-fossil fuel stance, with some denying the effect of human activities on the climate altogether. Before being forced to resign in scandal last year, former National’s leader Barnaby was publicly calling for Australia to withdraw from the Paris Agreement and was an outspoken critic of renewable energy (despite his district being home to some of the most impressive wind power projects in Australia!).
Current National’s leader and Minister for Agriculture David Littleproud has taken a very different stance. He sees the exciting opportunities provided by renewable energy and acknowledges farmers are struggling with climate change. But he still struggles with a small, hardline faction of National MPs opposed to climate action and has made no indications he will reign in this rogue wing of his Party.
This makes grassroots momentum in the farming community all the more important. Farmers for Climate Action was accepted as a partner in Australia’s biggest farming industry body – the National Farmer’s Federation – in late 2016, and just one day later agriculture leaders elected Fiona Simson as Federation president. Simson is a climate advocate and doesn’t hesitate to criticise the National Party for its anti-climate action stance. When Littleproud and Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull embarked on a tour of drought-stricken NSW last month they were warned by former National MPs to not politicize the tour by mentioning climate change, drawing a swift rebuke from Simson. She will continue to pressure the National Party to adopt more climate friendly stances, just as Farmers for Climate Action will continue to bring the stories of climate-affected farmers to national attention. All over Australia graziers, dairy farmers, crop-growers, fruit growers and winemakers are joining a movement that shows no signs of slowing down.
Status: Right Direction
Currently, Australia has no government plan for how it will reduce emissions in the agriculture sector. If emission cuts in the energy sector do not materialize, agriculture will have to bear more responsibility for reaching Australia’s Paris targets, something farmers will struggle with given the current droughts. But farmers – seeing the impacts of climate change first hand – are showing increased willingness to push for more climate action, and acknowledge the basic driver of drought and extreme weather: climate change. The farming sector is realising Australia needs to show more responsibility in its climate goals and is organising itself to make things happen.
To take action, simply fill out your name and email in the form below and the message will be sent.
Your message will be sent to:
The Hon. David Littleproud MP
Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources
Suite 3, Foodworks Centre
59 Condamine Street
Dalby, QLD, 4405
Phone: +61 7 4662 2715