Our farmers must continue climate action- Opinion Article for The Land News

WITH the crowd funding support of 67 Australians, I recently found myself one of 50,000 delegates in Paris at the International Climate Change Conference, COP21.

This was the first time 195 nations had openly discussed their climate concerns about food security.

Listening to the speakers and meeting so many diverse people from the wealthiest and poorest countries the conference left me horrified, motivated and empowered.

Horrified at the climate change-driven, devastating events happening on daily around the world, including the droughts at home. Horrified at the risks we are taking if we don’t act now, and motivated and empowered by the mood and desire for positive outcomes, despite any terrorist threat.

The resulting watershed Paris agreement means Australian farmers have new opportunities for fresh and secure income streams from the Australian government’s commitment to move away from fossils fuels to clean energy. What we need to ask ourselves is whether the farming sector is actually ready to drive the conversations required? Are we ready to leverage the potential to power Australia through clean energy technologies? Having previously talked about climate change in hushed tones are we now ready to talk out loud?

Are we ready to partner with government and the community to get the best outcomes for farmers and the rural communities we support?

While there is no denying farmers have pioneered the adaptation to climate change, the Paris agreement opens the door for us to deliver the mitigation strategies the transition to clean energy offers. 

Communities in Wales and Europe are already moving to models where farmers are not only feeding and clothing the world, but they are also powering and empowering their rural communities.

Whether it’s installing solar on the house or bore pump, a commercial scale solar unit on the farm or a wind turbine on top of the hill, forming energy hubs with equity partners, the opportunities are endless for farmers to earn new income streams alongside their main farming enterprise.

I am not naive enough to think I have returned from COP21 with a silver bullet for agriculture, but I know we can only benefit from this new agreement by accepting we are on the frontlines of a changing climate and learning from the clean energy transition models adopted by farmers across the world.

Success will require progressive farmer organisations and their supporters under the banner of the National Farmers Federation, anticipating and grasping the potential the future offers.