Agriculture and climate change

Green fields behind a fence with blue skies and clouds on a lovely sunny dayClimate change is a significant challenge facing the agriculture sector. As the climate becomes warmer and drier, it threatens the productivity and sustainability of the sector. Climate change will affect water availability and the state can expect more extreme events such as heatwaves, storms, bushfires, droughts and flood. These changes threaten lives and assets and will increasingly test the resilience of the primary production sector in many ways.

We know that many in the sector are already managing the impacts of these changes.

At the same time, agricultural activities significantly contribute to our State’s overall emissions – the fourth-largest share of Victoria’s emissions in 2018.

Responding to climate change also presents significant opportunities for Victorian agriculture. Through the Strategy for Agriculture in Victoria, the Victorian Government is committed to protecting and enhancing the future of our sector by ensuring it is well placed to reduce emissions, prepare for climate risk, and take advantage of these opportunities.  This includes a commitment from government to position Victorian agriculture as a leader in low emissions agriculture and enable industries to be productive and profitable under a changed climate.

Reducing emissions from the agriculture sector and adapting to climate change is complex. We know that many in the sector are already taking action, while others need more support to get there.

Increasingly, our global export markets are signalling that trading partners will need to demonstrate they are reducing greenhouse gas emissions. For Victoria to remain a leading exporter of food and fibre, industry and government will need to work together to meet these consumer expectations.

The Victorian Government is taking strong and lasting action to reduce Victoria’s emissions to net zero by 2050 and build resilient communities that are prepared to deal with the impacts of climate change.

Victorian Government’s Climate Change Strategy

The Climate Change Strategy 2021–2030 sets out the Victorian Government’s current response to climate change and our next steps – which includes cutting green-house gas emissions by 28–33% by 2025, and 45–50% by 2030, compared to 2005 emissions.

The Strategy outlines what the Victorian Government is doing to reduce emissions and support communities and industry to adapt to a changing climate while boosting the economy, safeguarding our future prosperity, and enhancing quality of life.

The Victorian Government is taking action now by investing in a suite of sector pledges right across the economy. The pledges provide a clear way forward for how government will work with each sector to reduce Victoria’s emissions, including those from agricultural activities. The agriculture sector pledge outlines the Victorian Government’s commitment to work with farmers, industry and regional communities in responding to climate change.

Victorian farmers may also be interested other programs and sector pledges under the Climate Change Strategy such as the BushBank Program, the Victorian Energy Upgrades and the Solar for Business Program.

The Climate Change Strategy also sets out the Victorian Government’s priorities to address current climate change impacts, reduce barriers to adaptation, and lay the foundations for transformational adaptation.

The package of policies will also support the coronavirus (COVID-19) recovery by creating jobs and rebuilding a clean, resilient and prosperous economy for Victoria’s future.

Agriculture Sector Pledge

The Victorian Government is investing almost $20 million in emissions reduction activities over the next four years through the Agriculture Sector Pledge. This investment will deliver a long-term shared vision, flagship trials of leading research, and tools and services to help farmers to reduce emissions while maintaining productivity and profitability.

Read on to find out what’s included in the agriculture sector pledge and sign up here to stay up to date as this program progresses.

Register for updates

Conversation iconSet a long-term vision for agriculture’s role in a net zero emissions economy

  • Work in partnership with industry to develop a Victorian Agriculture and Climate Change Statement, building on actions already being taken by industry.
  • The statement will be shaped by the Victorian Agriculture and Climate Change Council – our independent advisory council comprised of farmers, industry leaders and climate change experts with experience and connections across a range agricultural commodities and regional communities.

Cattle iconDelivering ground-breaking Victorian research into agriculture emissions reduction technologies and practices

  • Deliver flagship trials in pasture-based grazing systems to test promising methane-inhibiting feed additives for use on Victorian farms.
  • Collaborate on a national scale to enhance research and innovation, improve greenhouse gas reporting, and improve access to financial support for climate action for Victorian farmers.
  • Position the Ellinbank SmartFarm research centre to become the world’s first carbon neutral dairy farm, and open it to visitors who can see new technology in action.

Graph with downward trend iconProviding information, tools and services to support emissions reduction, adaptation and climate risk management across the Victorian agriculture sector

  • Build the tools needed to support climate resilient decision making, and provide foundational data and information to support up to date and localised decisions.

Icon image of farm with the sun aboveSupporting farmers and strengthening industry capability to reduce on-farm emissions and manage climate risks

  • Empower farmers and growers to understand, measure and reduce on-farm emissions with a pilot of up to 250 on-farm action plans with up to $5 million in grants to implement recommended actions.

Read more about the On-Farm Action Plan Pilot.

Related actions for the agriculture sector

Agriculture activities are not the only source or sink of emissions on-farm – there are also opportunities to reduce emissions or sequester carbon through energy, transport, waste and land use, land use change, and forestry (LULUCF). There are opportunities for the agriculture sector across the Climate Change Strategy and other sector pledges.

Government support is already helping farmers to increase energy efficiency and reduce emissions, including through an additional $30 million in investment in the successful Agriculture Energy Investment Plan. ​

The $15.3m Victorian Carbon Farming Program provides another avenue for private landholders to reduce emissions and build resilience to a changing climate. This Program will support private landholders to:

  • plant agroforestry and shelterbelt trees
  • access existing carbon markets, and
  • realise on-farm benefits and new income streams.

Government will also support the agriculture and other primary production sectors to adapt to the impacts of climate change through the primary production adaptation action plan that will be finalised later in the year.

Primary Production Adaptation Action Plan

The Victorian Government is acting now to support adaptation

The Victorian Government has released the Primary Production Adaptation Action Plan (AAP) as part of releasing plans for seven essential systems that are vulnerable to climate impacts or critical to our climate resilience.

These are Victoria's first set of Adaptation Action Plans — guiding government action and helping institutions, businesses and individuals to respond to our changing climate. The plans will be prepared every five years, to build on the work of the previous plans and reflect the latest climate science.

Each plan sets out:

  • the unique challenges and opportunities of climate change for each system;
  • the action being taken, and;
  • adaptation priorities for the next five years.

The primary production adaptation action plan includes agriculture, plantation forestry, productive fisheries and the infrastructure, workforce and communities supporting these industries.

It covers the full value chain — key inputs, growing and harvesting, production and processing — everything that gets products to market.

Read the Primary Production Climate Change Adaptation Action Plan:

In 2021, a draft Plan was released for public consultation and feedback provided by the community and stakeholders informed the finalisation of the Primary Production AAP.

You can read a summary of the feedback received at Engage Victoria.

Climate change will increase the challenges facing our primary industries

Our state’s primary industries have continued to perform strongly despite many challenges. However, the impacts of climate change, including on agricultural productivity, are already being felt and are projected to increase.

Climate change will challenge the ways that primary industries and governments operate and make decisions — requiring innovative and targeted responses as well as up to date skills, tools, resources and information.

The Primary Production AAP will help guide primary industries in ways to reduce climate change risks, build resilience and harness opportunities — bringing new products to market and generating efficiencies to support business continuity and growth.

Building a solid foundation for climate resilience

Under the Primary Production Adaptation Action Plan 2022–2026, the next five years will focus on building the climate resilience of value chains, facilitating research and innovation, and supporting primary industries to build further on their climate change adaptation information, skills and capacity.

It includes actions that address:

  • Current and future risks and vulnerabilities like more hot days and less rainfall.
  • More frequent and severe extreme events like bushfires and flash floods.
  • Transformative changes to current ways of doing things for long-term adaptation.

The Plan also helps support more partnership opportunities to stimulate new research and innovation, boost capacity and build capabilities to respond to the impacts of a changing climate.

By building on the work that primary industries are already doing to adapt to climate change, the Plan enables communities, businesses and governments to work together to build a solid foundation for a climate-resilient Victoria for the long term.

To learn more about all of Victoria’s Adaptation Action Plans, visit climatechange.vic.gov.au.

Page last updated: 11 May 2022