Campaign Overview

You can also download the below as a PDF flyer here

Additionally LEAN has produced 5 supporting factsheets providing further detail on the issues. 

The Climate change duo - fossil fuels and the land

When we think about drivers of climate change, we usually think of fossil fuels in electricity, transport and industry. We need to transition rapidly from using coal, oil and gas for energy to zero emissions sources like solar and wind. The new federal Labor government has already started to do this.

But there are two sources of greenhouse gas emissions – energy use and the land.

Destroying nature emits greenhouse gases.

Carbon is stored in trees and soils. When we destroy vegetation and disturb soils, that carbon is released into the atmosphere. Since the industrial revolution, we have released millions of tonnes of greenhouse gases, not only by burning fossil fuels but also by clearing forests and changing our relationship to nature. Technological advances have enabled massive clearing of forests and intensified food systems.

Nearly one quarter of global greenhouse gas emissions are currently created by land use, that is agriculture and deforestation.[1]

Healthy ecosystems not only store carbon, they also remove carbon from the atmosphere.

The process of photosynthesis absorbs carbon as it grows trees and plants.

To keep global heating below 1.5 degrees, we will need not only to reduce emissions as much as possible, but also to take carbon out of the atmosphere.  

There is currently only one proven technology for removing carbon from the atmosphere: protecting and growing plants, including forests, native grasslands, wetlands and natural seaweed forests. The good news is that this will also help to protect and restore our biodiversity and natural environment: a win-win.

Australia has cleared 104 million hectares of forest since 1788,[2] so there is plenty to regrow.

What should we do about this?

1) Just like we have a strategy and targets for addressing carbon emissions from electricity, we need a national strategy for addressing climate change and the land.

 With the world needing to rapidly decarbonize, Australia can build thriving regional industries in protecting and restoring nature in order to reduce emissions and remove carbon from the atmosphere, while also building more profitable and sustainable agriculture and timber industries.

Protecting nature should not be seen as a drag on economic growth. We need a big vision and a lot of cooperation between land holders, scientists, Indigenous people, communities, government and investors as we build a new economy based on treating the land as a big fat carbon asset.

Global demand for carbon storage can be monetised. We can be world innovators in financing nature-based carbon storage and draw-down, building and improving on our existing carbon credits industry.

We need to reconsider the value of commodities that have driven loss of bushland – primarily beef and timber – in comparison to the new globally significant commodity, carbon. We need to pay farmers to protect and store carbon, not release it. We need to manage our native forests for carbon not wood production.

Labor’s policies to rebuild Australia’s industrial base, notably the National Reconstruction Fund and the Powering the Regions Fund, can be used also to grow a low carbon industrial future for the land sector. And the jobs we create will all be in the regions.

Jobs in land carbon. 

We can create secure jobs within locally grounded and expert teams including: 

  • machinery operators
  • ecologists
  • botanists and field scientists
  • Indigenous Rangers 
  • fire managers
  • land managers
  • surveyors
  • drone pilots
  • tree planters ands harvesters
  • native nursery technicians 

2) The most effective way to reduce emissions from the land sector is to shift to 100% plantation timber and end broadscale land clearing, before the next federal election.

We need to stop the loss. Once we stop the emissions creating by logging and clearing bush, we can focus more effectively on restoration and replanting.

In a world trying to reduce carbon emissions, Australia is the only developed country among the world's top deforestation hotspots.[3] When we log and clear forests we destroy stable carbon sinks,[4] create erosion and dust storms, undermine water systems and cause extinctions. This doesn’t make any sense in a carbon constrained world.

Our dangerously high levels of land clearing are driven by agricultural practices, primarily beef production. Wood production drives the logging of native forests. Both are major sources of carbon emissions and drivers of extinction.

But what about the need for wood? And what about the jobs? Already 88% of the wood produced in Australia comes from plantations.[7] We must invest more in plantations and grow a sustainable logging industry, as we end native forest logging. About 1100 people are employed in all aspects of the native forest industry nationally. By contrast, 7,900 people are employed in plantations,[8] with 1,800 more jobs available over the next decade as we build a stronger forestry industry. We must provide secure jobs for those engaged in native forest logging as the industry shifts to plantations.


Forests, land clearing and emissions. Australia’s forests store 22,000 million tonnes of carbon[5]. This is around 44 times Australia’s annual emissions and yet we are clearing this store-house at a rate of over 500,000 ha per year[6]. This is the equivalent to 680 MCG’s per day. We are also logging around 70,000 ha of publicly owned native forests each year [9].

A carbon- and nature-positive industry plan must focus on high value timber products rather than low value uses like paper, cardboard and pallets. High value products will deliver better employment outcomes and higher profitability.

Ending deforestation is good for trade too. In 2022 the European Union introduced laws to exclude imports that relied on deforestation in their production. As the world moves towards net zero, nature-positive Australian exports will command a premium and win market share.

Mangroves – the climate superstar. Mangroves are the world’s richest carbon storage mechanism. Mangroves catch huge amounts of carbon in the mud around their roots. They store around twice as much carbon as tropical forests. Our region is the globe’s mangrove capital - Australia has the 5th largest mangrove estate, while Indonesia has more than a quarter of the world’s mangroves.

3) Halving methane emissions from agriculture – cows; their burps and farts

Methane is less well known than carbon dioxide, but it is a much more potent greenhouse gas. For the first 20 years after it is emitted, it creates 72 times more warming that CO2. About 26% of Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions are methane.[10]

The Albanese Government has signed the Global Methane Pledge, to reduce methane emissions by 30% by 2030. Some of Australia’s methane emissions come from fossil fuel extraction.[11] The Government has promised to tackle these methane emissions through an enhanced and genuinely effective Safeguards Mechanism.

Around 51% of Australia’s methane emissions come from agriculture[12], primarily as a by-product of the way cows and sheep digest food. They burp and fart methane into the atmosphere.  

If Australia can halve its methane emissions from agriculture by 2030, we will come close to meeting the Methane Pledge target even without additional reductions from industry. Meat and Livestock Australia has already committed to achieving net zero emissions by 2030.

Australia can be a global leader in technology to reduce methane from agriculture. As a leading global beef producer, Australian innovation in this area will have a real impact on global methane emissions.

How to reduce methane from cows - As well as managing stock numbers to maximise efficiency, there are emerging technologies to reduce methane produced by burping cows.

For instance, seaweed when added to the food cows eat, can reduce methane production. Developing seaweed forests for feed production can also help to revive and restore blue carbon ecosystems.

Australian innovation in this sphere is already creating jobs in places like the east coast of Tasmania. Sadly however, demand for these products is lower than production capability. We need policy to sharpen industry focus on addressing methane from our burping friends, the cows.


See our motion for Labor branches, or to learn more about LEAN's plan for jobs in managing the land for carbon, read our forest protection jobs plan: 




[1] IPCC,2022, Climate Change 2022, Mitigation of Climate Change. Working Group III contribution to the sixth assessment report.

[2] Bradshaw CJA, 2012, Little left to lose: deforestation and forest degradation in Australia since European colonisation, Journal of Plant Ecology, Vol 5, Issue 1

[3] WWF Deforestation fronts: Drivers and responses in a changing world, 2021

[4] If trees that are logged are used for high value, long term items, like rocking chairs or violins, their carbon remains stored in those new objects. However most of our native forest logs (over 90% in Victoria and southern NSW) are used for short term, low value uses like paper and cardboard.

[5] Australian Government, Department of Agriculture, Forests and Fisheries, State of the Forest Report 2018, p313

[6] QLD Gov, SLATS data 2018-21

[7] Australian forest and wood products statistics - March and June Quar- ters 2022, ABARES

[8] State of the Forest 2018, ABARES p 433 Australia wide jobs in both the native forest and plantation sector in 2016 was 8 984. The division of native forests v plantation jobs figures based on the 88/12% split within the industry.

[9] ABARES, State of Forests, 2018.

[10] Quarterly Update of Australia’s National Greenhouse Gas Inventory: June 2022, Australian Government Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water

[11;12] Quarterly Update of Australia’s National Greenhouse Gas Inventory: March 2022


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