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Australia’s emissions reduction target lies beneath our feet

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Mulloon Institute, Media Release, 20 August 2021

IPCC Report – Response

Australia’s Mulloon Institute says the country can achieve its emissions reduction target by focussing on what is literally right under its feet, our soil.

 Rehydrated landscapes are key to carbon sequestration and improving farm resilience to climatic extremes. (Westview Farm, NSW 2020) Photo: Mulloon Institute

One of only five organisations chosen globally as a demonstrator of sustainable agriculture by the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Solutions Network, the Institute says that soil can play a major role in reducing the impact of climate change through the natural cycle of soil carbon sequestration. 

The key to this occurring is through a rehydrated landscape.

The Hon. Gary Nairn AO, Chairman of the Mulloon Institute, says unfortunately the solutions being put forward by the IPCC and others rely heavily on the reduction in actual emissions (focused on energy) and achieving ‘net zero’.

Mr Nairn says there are other, simpler solutions to this complex problem, “Few people are aware that soil contains two to three times more carbon than the atmosphere, and that it is possible to absorb the world’s annual anthropogenic emissions in our soils.”

Carbon sequestration, the long-term removal, capture or sequestration of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, helps slows or reverses atmospheric CO2 pollution.

“Key to carbon sequestration is water,” Mr Nairn says, “and a hydrated landscape will speed up carbon sequestration.”

“For example, soil organic matter (SOM) has increased by up to 129% over the past ten years as a result of our work through the award winning, catchment-scale Mulloon Rehydration Initiative (MRI).”

The Initiative, jointly funded by the Mulloon Institute and the Australian Government’s National Landcare Program, is located in the Mulloon catchment, east of Canberra.

“SOM is a lead indicator for soil health and soil carbon. We have proven through our research, that when we fix water cycles on farmers’ land, we can retain more water in the soil, increase vegetation cover, sequester carbon and improve long term profitability,” he explains.

The release of the latest IPCC Report on the climate further reinforces the urgent need for landscape-scale repair and rehydration works across the country, according to Mr Nairn.

“While the IPCC Report will trigger debate and finger pointing on who is doing what and where, the least expensive and most practical action that will quickly get results, including a return on investment, is fixing and rehydrating our degraded landscapes,” he says.

“In particular, the IPCC Report highlights a future of less rain overall but more intensive events, risking flooding and erosion. Our work is geared specifically towards making our landscapes more resilient to such events,” he continues.

“While this work is a no-brainer for farmers’ resilience to extreme weather events, drought, flood and bushfire, it is having a positive impact on the climate as it transfers carbon dioxide emissions from the atmosphere into the soil, as soil organic carbon,” Mr Nairn emphasises.

“The end result is a win for the environment with repaired landscapes and increased biodiversity, a win for farmers with improved soil health, nutrient dense food, productivity and resilience and a win for the climate, with reduced emissions, thus helping to put a break on temperature increases,” he concludes.

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