Strike up the barbecue, Australia will have to get rid of nearly three million beef cattle and eight million sheep if agriculture is made to reduce its emissions by a quarter, modelling shows.
The sector would be forced to reduce 2005-level emissions by 26 per cent by 2030, if the same target is locked in for the electricity sector as part of the Turnbull government’s signature energy policy.
The target, part of Australia’s commitment to reduce overall emissions by 26-28 per cent, has been a sticking point in securing support from all states and territories for the National Energy Guarantee.
A report by the Australia Institute on Wednesday says the target would require an 18.7 million tonne reduction in emissions every year.
‘This approach imposes significant costs on agriculture and other sectors that do not have the existing commercially available technologies for emissions reduction that the electricity sector currently enjoys,’ report author and senior economist Matt Grudnoff said.
To meet the target, Australia would need to have 2.9 million fewer beef cattle – the equivalent of all the beef cattle in Victoria and South Australia combined, the report says.
There would also need to be eight million fewer sheep, 290,000 fewer dairy cows and 270,000 pigs.
Grazing beef cattle producing methane are responsible for the most emissions in the agriculture sector, followed by sheep, dairy and cropping.
Under current emissions reduction policies, agriculture emissions are still expected to rise over the next decade, with beef expected to be responsible for half of that increase.
Mr Grudnoff said requiring greater emissions reductions in the electricity sector would mean agriculture is required to do less, reducing the cost to the industry.