Australia has ruled out promising to cut methane emissions by 30% by the end of the decade in a stance that will add to criticism that the country is too slow in addressing climate change.
Minister for industry, energy and emissions reduction Angus Taylor announced his government’s decision before he was to fly with Prime Minister Scott Morrison to a UN climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland.
The United States and the European Union pledged in September to the 30% methane reduction target.
Mr Taylor said the only way Australia could achieve that target would be to reduce numbers of cattle and sheep.
Writing in The Australian newspaper, he said: “At present, almost half of Australia’s annual methane emissions come from the agriculture sector, where no affordable, practical and large-scale way exists to reduce it other than by culling herd sizes.
“What activists in Australia and elsewhere want is an end to the beef industry.”
Australia is one of the world’s largest exporters of coal and liquified natural gas.
The gas and mining sector account for almost one third of Australia’s methane emissions.
Deputy prime minister Barnaby Joyce said his Nationals party, the conservative government’s junior coalition partner, had insisted Mr Morrison not commit to reducing methane at the Glasgow summit, known as Cop26.
Inaction on methane was one of the conditions the rural-based Nationals had placed on support for Mr Morrison’s Liberal Party’s target of net zero emissions by 2050.
“The only way you can get your 30% by 2030 reduction in methane on 2020 levels would be to go and grab a rifle, go out and start shooting your cattle because it’s just not possible,” Mr Joyce said.
But Meat and Livestock Australia – a Sydney-based producer-owned company that provides marketing, research and development services to over 50,000 cattle, sheep and goat farmers – said the Australian red meat industry was pursuing its own net zero target for 2030.
“This target means that by 2030, Australian beef, lamb and goat production, including lot feeding and meat processing, will make no net release of greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere,” the company website said.