Capture Carbon On The Land

To achieve this, a Shorten Labor Government will:

  • Work with stakeholders to develop an appropriate “trigger” in federal environmental protection laws to cover Australia’s national and international commitments around climate change;

  • Require the adoption of consistent reporting of land and tree clearing across States and the Commonwealth;

  • Reinvigorate the COAG National Vegetation Management Framework; and

  • Reinvigorate the Carbon Farming Initiative.

Climate Trigger

Labor will legislate to include a Climate Trigger in federal legislation to allow the Commonwealth to regulate broad-scale land clearing across the nation. This will ensure proper and rigorous investigation of broad-scale land clearing impact on Australia’s ability to meet its agreed climate change commitment to keeping global warming well below 2 degrees Celsius.

Orderly transition

Labor will ensure that State land clearing laws are consistent with Australia’s international obligations and commitments. This will require the adoption of consistent reporting of land and tree clearing across States and the Commonwealth, in line with best practice in this area.

There are significant discrepancies between the Australian Government’s tree clearing data and that of Queensland. Queensland’s data generally shows much higher clearing (see graph) and emissions. The Australian Government data is based on desktop analysis, while the Queensland Government complements desktop analysis with extensive field validation.

Labor will bring the rest of the country in line with Queensland’s reporting of land clearing by implementing the state’s ground-tested SLATS system nationwide.

Tree_clearing.jpegSource: The Wilderness Society

Is land clearing an issue anywhere else? Shouldn’t it just be left to QLD to figure out?

While it is particularly problematic in Queensland it is also happening elsewhere. Australia’s emissions are a national issue and we can’t seriously reduce our emissions without reigning in land clearing.

Carbon Farming Initiative

In order to support a strong domestic offsets market, Labor will work with relevant stakeholders to develop arrangements to reinvigorate the Carbon Farming Initiative (CFI). CFI was a Labor initiative that created market supplying offsets from a diverse range of carbon reduction projects in the land sector – including re-afforestation, savannah burning and much more.

It is in the national interest that the agricultural sector be able to exploit the new, enhanced export opportunities in a way that is consistent with responsible land management. The land and agricultural sector represent Australia’s largest opportunity in coming years to sequester carbon pollution (through soil carbon methods, re-afforestation, avoided deforestation and more). Labor in Government will continue to support the sector in these areas.

National Vegetation Management Framework

Labor in Government will explore other ways of ensuring that State land clearing laws are consistent with Australia’s international obligations and commitments; including by re-invigorating COAG’s National Vegetation Management Framework. We will work with State and Territory governments to update the Framework to set clear targets for tree clearing reductions.


Australia’s land sector emissions were around 135 million tonnes CO2e in 1990 or around one quarter of the national total; in 2012, they were just 13 million tonnes. That huge reduction was overwhelmingly due to land clearing restrictions introduced in Queensland over time between 1999 and 2009 (supported by John Howard who understood the benefits in achieving the Kyoto commitment). Not only was this reduction enormously important from a climate perspective; it also had a huge impact on biodiversity in the region. But that great work is being undone. After Campbell Newman scrapped land clearing restrictions in Queensland, emissions from tree clearing in the state in 2013-14 soared to 36 MtCO2e.

Want more details?

Download the summary fact sheet here 
or download the full policy document here.