LEAVING agriculture out of Australia's long term carbon emissions target makes no sense, a Bendigo advocate says as government politicians considers policy changes.
"Will they push for coal to be exempt? What about forestry? How many exemptions would still come up to make it easier to get to zero emissions?" Bendigo Sustainability Group president Colin Lambie asked.
"I guess it's one way to make the target a lot easier to reach."
Mr Lambie was reacting to Nationals' party room discussions about exempting farmers from binding Australian efforts to reach zero net emissions by 2050.
Leaders in the party's coalition partner The Liberals have suggested they would prefer to meet that target, but the government is yet to form a concrete position in line with allies like the United States.
Deputy Nationals leader David Littleproud said the sector has already done the "heavy lifting" under previous emissions reduction agreements.
"They should not be penalised again," he told the ABC on Monday morning as he defended Nationals leader Michael McCormack's position in ongoing policy discussions.
Mr McCormack had previously told Sky News that the priority must be helping regional Australians get back on their feet after a year of pandemic.
"There is no way we are going to whack regional Australia, hurt regional Australia in any way shape or form just to get a target for climate in 2050," Mr McCormack said.
"We are not going to hurt those wonderful people that put food on our table."
Meanwhile, the National Farmers Federation has already committed to a 2050 target and Meat and Livestock Australia are aiming for net zero emissions by 2030.
Mr Lambie said the agriculture sector is already leading the way on research techniques to sequester carbon in soil, planting trees and animal diets.
Some of that work is taking place on central Victorian land, including on paddocks where farmers are mixing food scraps through soil to help "draw" greenhouse gasses into the soil.
That project is being coordinated by La Trobe University and is not dependent of federal energy policy.
Advocacy group Farmers for Climate Action wants agriculture included to help reach net zero as soon as possible, deputy chair Anika Molesworth.
"Facing more frequent and severe droughts, floods and bushfires, Australian farmers are on the frontlines of climate change in this country," the agricultural scientist and farmer said.
"Farmers are also keenly aware that the global economy is increasingly moving towards a low-carbon future, where trade barriers and carbon tariffs will soon be in place."
Dr Molesworth was concerned that high emitting countries risked being left behind.
- With Australian Associated Press