Friday, September 29, 2023

River Country Bio Link

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51 people gathered at Western Murray Land Improvement Group’s Bio Link field day to hear about the evolution in the way big business views farmland.

The financial world loves a market and being ‘green’ is set to become the biggest market going. With carbon targets already set in the Paris Agreement, the next could come via the International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS), which will also factor in biodiversity (nature).

Next year, there will be a legislated requirement for big business to report on their carbon emissions and the IFRS will demand business compliance to the standard or face higher borrowing rates.

“There’s a golden rule, and if you’re a Christian, it’s do unto others what you’d have done to yourself, but if you’re a capitalist, it’s the person with the gold makes the rules,” said Andrew Ward of Regen Farmers Mutual as he addressed the crowd at Murray Connect.

Regen Farmers Mutual helps its members first learn about opportunities with their environmental assets and then create new income streams or enhance existing food and fibre revenue.

“What they are all seeking to do with the frameworks, TCFD (Taskforce on Climate-related Financial Disclosure), TNFD (Taskforce on Nature-related Financial Disclosure), the science-based targets for nature, is trying to work out how to measure and value climate and environment.

“What that means is those costs were previously externalised and now they are going to be brought into organisations.   

“Basically, they say ‘we now need in order for you to do a financial report’, you’re familiar with a balance sheet and profit and loss, but to be IFRS compliant from next year, you also need to show your scope one, scope two and scope three emissions, so they are your direct costs.” 

While farmers at this stage are excluded in the legislated requirements, they, along with mining are the very beginning of the supply chain and so the large companies selling products will be required to drill down into the climate and nature-based origins of the goods. 

“As farmers, we’re in primary production. Apart from mining, we are the start of the economy. We are the inputs that then get manufactured into bread, food and fibre and all our clothes,” said Mr Ward.

Banks also have an interest into the carbon and nature-based assets on farmers’ lands, as the banks’ emissions are sum of the emissions of their lenders. Likewise, the fast food industry emissions are the sum total of the farmers that supply them the ingredients that go into the burgers and the chips that they sell for everybody around the world. 

With such a top-down approach looming on the horizon, the River Country Bio Link seeks to identify the unique opportunities with our productive inland river delta, and empower farmers to attract not just income but a large premium in the emerging environmental goods and services markets. 

With farmers understanding their assets and opportunities, they can avoid being at the mercy of big business or banks using a computer model to make calculations on their operations.

Gonn farmers Stephen Monk and David McDonald have already been involved in a pilot project demonstrating how mid-Murray River delta communities could use landscape rehydration techniques to enhance biodiversity, cultural preservation and carbon drawdown.

 The day saw a range of presentations centred around the opportunities for farmers and also the exciting work that has been done with a collaborative approach to natural resource management, such as Pollack Swamp. 

Dan Hutton, ecologist and cultural heritage specialist; Colin Pardoe, bioanthropologist and archaeologist; and Ant Jones, cultural heritage consultant and expert in natural resource management, presented the rich cultural heritage of our area and explained how cultural heritage can be seen as a proxy for exceptional environmental value, outlining the bounty that the land once provided to its people and the sheer number of indigenous Australians it supported.

Ecologists Dr John Conallin and Maggie McDonald presented ‘Nature Repair’, which discussed ecological restoration and all the core benefits that this provided to our interconnected environment.

The Bio Mulloon Institute’s Carolyn Hall and Jack Smart gave a glimpse of the work that they been doing on the institute’s farms in NSW, but also across Australia in rehydrating landscapes. In what appears to be opposite to the Federal Government’s push to remove water from our landscape, Carolyn and Matt explained environmental, social and economic benefits of rehydrating the landscape.  

The morning finished with presentations from the Murray-Darling Wetlands Working Group’s Sascha Healy on the philosophy and impact of over 30 years of wetland restoration, and Murray Local Land Services’ Josh Campbell on applying NRM regional strategy to market projects and gearing up for environmental markets.

WMLIG members can tap into grants of up to $10,000 per landowner. Thanks to the NSW Primary Industry and Productivity Abatement Program (PIPAP) and the Regen Farmers Mutual, Western Murray farmers have the opportunity to leverage grants and advisory services to co-design aggregated projects and take them to an environmental market transaction.

The Koondrook and Barham Bridge Newspaper 14 September 2023

This article appeared in The Koondrook and Barham Bridge Newspaper, 14 September 2023.

Related story: Introducing the River Country Biolink


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