“Since the industrial revolution, we have been experiencing ‘the great acceleration’ – exponential growth in everything from water use, fertiliser consumption, motor vehicles to fast food restaurants. We are in a pressure cooker at the moment. If we don’t do something to make our food and land use system more sustainable in the next 12 years, our chance will be gone.  This means we have just 11 harvests to make that change.”

Mario Herrero, Chief Research Scientist, CSIRO Agriculture and Food

The official launch of the Australian component of the Food and Land Use Coalition (FOLU) took place in Melbourne on 15th October, with participants highlighting the urgency of action and the huge opportunities to tap into.

Professor Jeffrey Sachs – world renowned economist and Director of the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network – hosted the event, which brought together the FOLU Australia partnership between Monash University (through ClimateWorks Australia), the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) and Deakin University.

The Australian initiative, Land Use Futures: Pathways to a Sustainable Food and Land Use System, aims to catalyse the transformation of Australia’s food and land use systems to build agricultural resilience and food security; improve diets; reverse environmental degradation and biodiversity loss; cut emissions and sequester significant levels of carbon. The FOLU initiative will produce pathways that aim to achieve multiple Sustainable Development Goals at the national scale for the Australian land sector.

There are immediate pressures and opportunities facing the Australian agricultural sector – including concerns about environmental issues and increasing scrutiny of Australia’s clean and green credentials – that require coordinated, accelerated action. Moreover, minimising trade-offs and unintended consequences requires a better understanding of the complex interactions within food and land use systems. This is critical to avoid pursuing insufficiently ambitious strategies, making choices that deliver benefits in one area but cause problems elsewhere, or missing opportunities that offer multiple benefits.

Professor Jeffrey Sachs and ClimateWorks Australia’s CEO Anna Skarbek discussed the timely nature of the initiative and the economic case for transforming food and land use systems to restore Australia’s precious ecosystems, while supporting healthy and prosperous lifestyles for Australians.

“While Australia is blessed with abundant land, this land is finite, and subject to increasing competition between different uses. We want to understand how this competition could deliver all the outcomes we need from our landscape – production of healthy food and fibre for Australians and the world, reducing emissions and drawing carbon out of the atmosphere, environmental rehabilitation and increasingly energy production as well.”

 – Anna Skarbek, CEO ClimateWorks Australia

The event benefited from presentations by Dr Mario Herrero (CSIRO) and Professor Brett Bryan (Deakin University). Dr Herrero commented that Australia has made some progress in achieving sustainable food and land use practices, but these efforts need to be greatly accelerated to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and national climate targets. Agriculture is an important economic contributor to the Australian economy but it is also responsible for 12% of the country’s carbon emissions and half of its fresh water consumption. Professor Bryan emphasised that developing new, more comprehensive pathways for sustainable food and land use systems will help identify the actions that will accelerate positive change in Australia.

Acting early to address the complex challenges facing the Australian food and land use systems represents an enormous opportunity for Australian agricultural businesses, and the national economy as a whole. By cementing and expanding Australia’s competitive advantage in agriculture, there is scope to build resilience and a brighter future for people and planet.

To learn more about the Land Use Futures: Pathways to a Sustainable Food and Land Use System project, visit the ClimateWorks Australia website

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