Farming and food systems for a carbon, water, energy and nutrient constrained world - Andrew Campbell
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  • Climate, Water and Energy are converging as ‘issues’ of public policy concern.  Moreover, they overlap with many other issues including food, human health, carbon, soil, planning, infrastructure, emergency management, national security and so on.  Yet our standard response at a policy level is to deal with such issues separately.  We default to disaggregate and delineate ‘turf’, rather than to focus on the intersections, interactions, interfaces and interstices between them, where more fruitful insights and pathways might be found.  Terry Moran, in a lecture to the IPAA last year, noted that “... The APS still generates too much policy within single departments and agencies to address challenges that span a range of departments and agencies…  We are not good at recruiting creative thinkers. ”  A similar observation could be made about the way we fund and manage research.   This presentation will explore the types of knowledge required to help us to capture the great opportunities that this convergence conveys, and how we might go about acquiring and sharing such knowledge.  It will do so using contemporary case studies at a regional level.  For organisations like water utilities and irrigation companies, the climate-water-energy nexus is not an abstract concept, but an everyday reality that has huge implications for business viability, right now.
  • The world needs to double food production over the next forty years, using less land and water, and paying much higher real prices for energy and nutrients. At the same time, we have to deal with climate change — the biggest market failure of all time — by undertaking radical economic reform in decoupling carbon emissions from economic growth. Australia is one of the countries most affected by climate change, Victoria is one of the most affected parts of Australia, and agriculture is among the most affected sectors of the economy. There will be intense pressures to change Victorian farming systems: to cope with a warming, drying, less reliable climate; to respond to greenhouse policy changes; to meet market demands and community expectations; and to adapt to demographic change. There is a grave risk that rural landscapes will be caught in a dreadful squeeze between a drying climate, and stressed farming systems and rural communities undergoing rapid reform. The habitat fragmentation, the death of paddock trees, the loss of wetlands and the consequent pressures on wildlife that we have seen in recent decades are likely to accelerate, desolating rural landscapes. Unless � Unless we find much more effective ways of reconnecting native vegetation across rural landscapes, and of securing water to maintain ecological function. This means finding ways of working landscape restoration into and around farming systems, and making it pay for people to do so. This presentation will explore the likely drivers of change in Victorian rural landscapes over coming decades and the most prospective options for large scale and rapid landscape restoration and buffering. The future is not some place we are going to, but one we are creating. Paths to it are made, not found.

Farming and food systems for a carbon, water, energy and nutrient constrained world - Andrew Campbell Farming and food systems for a carbon, water, energy and nutrient constrained world - Andrew Campbell Presentation Transcript

  • Farming & Food Systems for a carbon, water, energy and nutrient constrained world CCRSPI Conference, MCG 17.2.11 Andrew Campbell Research Institute for Environment & Livelihoods Charles Darwin University
  • Outline
    • Context: converging insecurities
      • Climate
      • Water
      • Energy
      • Food
    • Big Picture Reflections
    • Food & farming systems
    • Knowledge, science & policy
  • Key Points
    • Climate challenges:
      • inherent variability, extreme events, underlying change
      • the carbon age is beginning
      • water security will be a perennial issue for southern Australia
    • the age of cheap, abundant fossil fuel energy is coming to an end, with huge implications for Australian agriculture and food systems
    • Each of these has their own imperatives, but their interactions are equally, if not more important
    • We deal with these issues in science and policy silos
    • We tend to be always fighting the last war
    • What sorts of knowledge do we need, and how might we get it?
  • Energy
    • “ a significant risk of a peak in conventional oil production before 2020. The risks presented by global oil depletion deserve much more serious attention by the research and policy communities.”
    • UK Energy Research Centre, An assessment of the evidence for a near-term peak in global oil production , August 2009
    “ we have to leave oil before oil leaves us, and we have to prepare ourselves for that day” Dr Fatih Birol, Chief Economist IEA, 3 August 2009 “ The challenge of feeding 7 or 8 billion people while oil supplies are falling is stupefying. It’ll be even greater if governments keep pretending that it isn’t going to happen.” George Monbiot, The Guardian 16.11.09 IEA World Energy Outlook 2010 acknowledges peak oil “imminent”
  • Water
    • Each calorie takes one litre of water to produce, on average
    • Like the Murray Darling Basin, all the world’s major food producing basins are effectively ‘closed’ or already over-committed
  • Water, energy, and GDP from Proust, Dovers, Foran, Newell, Steffen & Troy (2007) Energy & GDP Water & GDP Water and energy have historically been closely coupled with GDP in Australia Our challenge now is to radically reduce the energy, carbon and water-intensity of our economy
  • Climate-energy-water feedbacks from Proust, Dovers, Foran, Newell, Steffen & Troy (LWA 2007)
    • Saving water often uses more energy, and vice-versa
    • Efforts to moderate climate often use more energy +/or water
      • E.g. coal-fired power stations with CCS will be 25-33% more water-intensive
    • Using more fossil energy exacerbates climate chaos
  • Profound technical challenges
    • To decouple economic growth from carbon emissions
    • To adapt to an increasingly difficult climate
    • To increase water productivity
      • — decoupling the 1 litre per calorie relationship
    • To increase energy productivity
      • more food energy out per unit of energy in
      • while shifting from fossil fuels to renewable energy
    • To develop more sustainable food systems
      • while conserving biodiversity and
      • improving landscape amenity, soil health, animal welfare & human health
    • TO DO ALL OF THE ABOVE SIMULTANEOUSLY! — improving sustainability and resilience
  • 2. Big picture reflections
    • Terry Moran, Institute of Public Administration, 15 July 2009:
    • Reflecting on the challenges of public sector reform:
    • “ By and large, I believe the public service gives good advice on incremental policy improvement. Where we fall down is in long-term, transformational thinking; the big picture stuff. We are still more reactive than proactive; more inward than outward looking. We are allergic to risk, sometimes infected by a culture of timidity…. The APS still generates too much policy within single departments and agencies to address challenges that span a range of departments and agencies… We are not good at recruiting creative thinkers. ”
    http://www.dpmc.gov.au/media/speech_2009_07_15.cfm
  • Reflections (2)
    • Two countervailing forces in Australian policy and politics:
    • An unprecedented analytical base, comprehensive, deep, broad, led by authoritative people with a long national view:
      • Garnaut report and its updates
      • Henry tax review
      • Beale biosecurity review
      • Hawke review of EPBC act
      • Drought policy review
    • A political discourse dominated by returning budget to surplus ASAP, cutting programs to fund flood and storm rebuilding
      • Apparent preference at all levels of govt to fund high profile emergency response & restoration after the fact, rather than invest in less visible prevention, systemic measures & risk mitigation — rampant myopia
  • 3. Farming and food systems
    • Where’s the master plan for Australian agriculture and food?
    • Why not set some high level COAG goals, to guide the multiple PISC strategies? E.g:
      • Australian agriculture to be a net producer of energy by ….?
      • Australian agriculture to be carbon neutral by….?
      • Australian food system to halve its water intensity by….?
      • Australian agriculture to be an employer of choice, with VET and tertiary courses tuned to 21 st Century needs, attracting top talent into the sector
      • A coherent orientation around understanding risk and uncertainty, proactive mitigation and management
  • We need a third agricultural revolution
    • Closed loop farming systems, not leaking: (water, energy, nutrients, carbon, biodiversity, young people)
    • Smart metering, sensing, telemetry, robotics, guidance
    • Better understanding of soil carbon & microbial activity
    • Radically reducing waste in all parts of the food chain
    • Urban and peri-urban food production (tapping into waste streams)
    • Farming systems producing renewable bioenergy ( 2 nd generation )
    • Attracting young talent back into agriculture and rural communities
  • Murrumbidgee Irrigation - a current case
    • Bulk water distributor and seller in the MIA
      • $1B GVAP, and $7B value-add of food, wine and fibre production
    • 100 year old irrigation & drainage network being modernised
    • Piping and pressurisation will treble energy consumption
      • And hence greenhouse gas emissions
    • Options:
      • Biomass energy plant - 0.5m tonnes p.a. of ag & food process waste
      • Solar thermal power plant on linear easements (C price-dependent)
      • Conversion to biodiesel
      • Carbon offsets through large scale tree planting
    • Turning a water company into a water, energy & carbon company
      • Liberating potential opportunities through a more integrated approach
  • Coliban Water Greenhouse Gas Emissions
    • Note total emissions have trebled in five years
    • ‘ Superpipe’ to Bendigo from the Goulburn on-line in 2007
  • Coliban Water emissions per Megalitre
    • Note water supply emissions increased tenfold in five years
    • What is the net GHG impact of implementing the Basin Plan? Or all urban water projects?
  • Woody biomass energy
    • Learning from the Vikings:
      • Finland: same area and population as Victoria, tougher climate, shorter growing season, slower growth rates
      • Private forestry thinnings etc produce 23% of Finland’s primary energy, over 75% of thermal energy needs, and 20% of Finland’s electricity
      • In Sweden it is 20% (already higher than oil) with a target of 40%
    • Foran et al suggest woody biomass energy can fuel Australia
    • WA already in the lead
      • 2 nd Gen biofuels (mallees) 40-50 times more energetically efficient than ethanol
  • CRC Future Farm Industries energy trees
    • Developing an efficient supply chain for woody energy crops integrated into wheatbelt farming systems.
    • Solving a bottleneck with the invention of a new harvesting head that can handle tough mallee species efficiently
  • “ Carbon plus” wool, beef and sheep meat
  • Transition to carbon-neutral, energy-positive, water-smart rural landscapes
  • Forestry integrated with farming vs replacing farming
  • Forestry integrated with farming vs replacing farming
  • The integration imperative
    • Managing whole landscapes
      • “ where nature meets culture” (Simon Schama)
      • landscapes are socially constructed
      • beyond ‘ecological apartheid’
      • NRM means people management
      • engage values, perceptions, aspirations, behaviour
    • Integration
      • across issues — e.g climate, energy, water, food, biodiversity
      • across scales — agencies, governments, short-term, long-term
      • Across domains — science, policy, management
      • across the triple helix —  landscapes, lifestyles & livelihoods
  • Putting landscapes back together
    • How can this all ‘fit’ at a landscape and regional scale?
    • The landscape needs to be re-plumbed, re-wired and re-clothed
    • We need new regional planning approaches that:
      • are robust under a range of climate change & demographic scenarios
      • build in resilience thinking
      • accommodate carbon pollution mitigation options (energy, transport, food)
      • safeguard productive soil and allow for increased food production
      • facilitate reuse and recycling of water, nutrients and energy
    • Integrating and/or replacing regional catchment strategies and local government planning, zoning, rating and DA processes
  • and a complementary food policy overhaul
    • Policy propositions from Campbell (2009) “Paddock to Plate” (published by the ACF & also at www.triplehelix.com.au )
    http://www.acfonline.org.au/articles/news.asp?news_id=2401
  • A food policy agenda (2) http://www.acfonline.org.au/articles/news.asp?news_id=2401
  • A food policy agenda (3) http://www.acfonline.org.au/articles/news.asp?news_id=2401
  • A food policy agenda (4) http://www.acfonline.org.au/articles/news.asp?news_id=2401
  • A food policy agenda (5) http://www.acfonline.org.au/articles/news.asp?news_id=2401
  • 4. KNOWLEDGE
    • 3 main reasons to invest in knowledge:
    • To help us make better decisions & policy
    • To underpin the innovation process
      • when the status quo is not good enough
    • So that we can learn as we go along —  in the words of Peter Cullen: “at least we should be making new mistakes”
  • Types of Response
    • We need to be operating in each of these quadrants
    • Develop research partnerships +/or link into existing collaborations
    Source: FFI CRC EverCrop
  • What sorts of knowledge do we need?
    • Integrated metrics, or tools for integrating metrics
    • Simple mud maps of generic trade-offs and win-wins
    • Narratives that make the challenge more meaningful
      • Including international best practice case studies
    • How to articulate, quantify and evaluate climate-energy-water-food interactions, trade-offs and synergies holistically
    • Better climate-energy-water-food project assessment tools for new developments, and optimisation tools for improving them (across water, energy, carbon & food)
    • Pathways to more distributed governance, leadership, energy grids, transport systems etc
  • What sorts of knowledge do we need (2)?
    • Component technologies that help us to reduce the carbon, energy and water intensity of our economy, food and farming systems
    • Systems and integrative tools for putting whole packages together across STEEP (Social, Technological, Environmental, Economic and Political) dimensions — and across scales from paddock to region to nation
    • Inter- and trans-disciplinary sciences, closely linked to the policy and management environments (leading edge SMEs & consultants)
    • Institutional analysis tools to spotlight blockages and develop better planning and regulatory environments
    • Community engagement — work with champions, bring communities, industries & regions along the journey
  • How might we acquire that knowledge?
    • Traditional science & policy silos won’t work
    • A Water, Energy & Land (WEL) R&D Corporation? (PC Inquiry)
      • need to work with at least four Ministers & their agencies
    • A food systems CRC to build R&D capacity & integration?
    • A Sustainability Commission with a research mandate?
      • sister agency to the Productivity Commission?
      • or an expansion of its mandate?
    • Commitment to some pilots – e.g. greenfield suburbs, regional centres on the margins of the energy grid, MIS plantings?
    • Social learning: much smarter use of web 2.0 technologies, linked to real-time smart meters etc
  • Leadership
    • “ In order to discover new lands, one must be prepared to lose sight of the shore for a very long time”*
    • Shared training in ag & food systems renewal and network leadership for bright, mid-level cohorts across industry & govt
    • Reinvestment in regional level leadership through e.g. CMAs, farming systems groups, industry groups, SMEs
    • Longer term education programs in unis, TAFE & schools
    • Social learning: much smarter use of web 2.0 technologies, linked to real-time smart meters etc
    • Don’t wait for leadership from the political system!
    * André Gide, 1925 Les Faux-Monnayeurs (The Counterfeiters) ”
  • Take home messages
    • Rural landscapes are more contested and squeezed between major drivers: climate, water, energy, food
    • Australia needs a third agricultural revolution
    • Australian land use, farming and food systems need to improve performance, irrespective of climate change
    • This creates exciting new opportunities for agriculture and food system participants and leaders
    • This is about knowledge, innovation & leadership
    • GO FOR IT !!
  • For more info e.g. Paddock to Plate Policy Propositions for Sustainable Food Systems Powerful Choices (with Barney Foran) A Climate Change Primer for Regional NRM Managing Australian Soils www.triplehelix.com.au