Shadow climate change minister accuses Chris Bowen and Government of ‘another broken promise’ on methane pledge

The Coalition has continued its attack on the government over its expected pledge to cut methane emissions as the chief farmers’ body warns Labor against introducing further regulations on the livestock industry.

Agriculture Minister Murray Watt confirmed on Thursday the government was considering signing up to US President Joe Biden’s goal to cut global methane emissions by 30 per cent.

But Labor has been urged not to follow in New Zealand’s footsteps and target the livestock industry to lower emissions.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has flagged this week her government will introduce a tax on methane emissions from livestock from 2025 which could see farmers pay between $15,000 and $50,000 annually or risk cutting herd size.

The Coalition has seized on the issue and accused the government of backflipping on its commitment not to support the pledge.

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Shadow climate and energy minister Ted O’Brien said the pledge would have a “devastating impact” on Australian farmers despite the government indicating it had no plans to introduce a tax.

“It’s another broken promise, Labor were silent about this in the leadup to the election,” Mr O’Brien told Sky News Australia host Chris Kenny on Thursday.

“They backed the Coalition stance to not join the global methane pledge only a year ago but they’ve since won the election and they’re going to introduce it.

“It is going to have a devastating impact across the country doesn’t matter if you’re a cattle farmer, sheep farmer, dairy farmer you’re going to be hit and we know that those farmers can’t bear the costs so that will pass on through increased prices to consumers.”

Labor in opposition supported the government’s decision not to sign the methane pledge ahead of the COP26 summit in Glasgow.

The then-shadow climate and energy minister Chris Bowen repeatedly ruled out committing to the pledge, telling ABC Insiders that the “implications” had to be worked through.

Mr Bowen at the time said there needed to be “concrete plans put in place to reduce methane”.

The Agriculture Minister on Thursday said the pledge was simply an “aspirational goal” to work towards methane cuts while committing not to introduce taxes.

“It is not a binding target on Australia or any of the other countries which have already signed up to it,” Mr Watt said.

“The other reason that we are considering this is that it’s important to our farm and agriculture groups and industries that we do take action on climate change and sustainability.

“We have absolutely no plans to introduce the tax or other measures that the New Zealand government is putting in place.”

The National Farmers’ Federation came out on Thursday and said the industry was “understandably alarmed” by the announcement by Ms Ardern this week.

But the peak farmers’ body said through active discussions with the government, it has received “several assurances” that signing up for the methane pledge will not negatively impact the sector.

“These include: no new taxes or regulation on livestock methane; recognition of agriculture’s existing plans and progress; and ongoing support to develop technology-led solutions,” National Farmers’ Federation Chief Executive Tony Mahar said.

“We’ve been given these assurances and it’s important they be upheld if and when a formal commitment is made.

“Otherwise the trust with the farming sector and rural and regional Australia will be broken.”

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