19 Oct 2022


Koalas benefit & emissions reductions could equal taking 18 million cars off the road

A new report finds improved government support to help Queensland’s beef industry retain and regrow trees could generate $4.4 billion in carbon farming projects.

It could also reduce emissions equal to taking more than 18 million cars off the road and help threatened species such as the koala.

Australia’s red meat industry has a target of becoming carbon neutral by 2030 while the Australian government has set an emissions reduction target of 43% by 2030.

The World Wide Fund for Nature-Australia commissioned business consultancy EY to analyse what actions in Queensland could reduce emissions from the beef industry.

EY’s report outlines three pathways for the beef industry to reduce emissions: Business as Usual (current trends continue), Carrot (relies heavily on better incentives) and Stick (focuses more on stronger regulations).

Under the ‘Stick’ pathway, land clearing rates would reduce through stronger land clearing regulations as well as increased incentives and carbon sequestration projects with a 35%-to-65% balance between regulations and incentives.

The ‘Carrot’ scenario relies more heavily on financial incentives and market mechanisms to boost carbon farming but also includes some tightening of regulation with a 20% regulation:80% incentives balance.

EY’s report states “the Carrot pathway presents a more balanced option” with carbon farming projects from 2021 to 2030 having an estimated market value of $4.4 billion, compared to $3.7 billion under the Stick scenario.

With a strong focus on incentives, farmers would gain additional revenue and be rewarded for delivering social and environmental benefits, extra income would be pumped into regional communities creating more jobs, and the local and international reputation of Queensland beef would be further enhanced.

Retaining existing trees and replanting natives would give koalas and other threatened species increased habitat.

Up to 68 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent could be sequestered through carbon farming projects, along with 16 million tonnes of avoided emissions through reducing vegetation clearing.

The total carbon benefit of 84 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent equates to taking more than 18 million cars off the road (based on the United States EPA estimate that a typical passenger vehicle emits about 4.6 metric tons of carbon dioxide per year).

“Queensland’s beef sector could help Australia achieve net zero emissions by avoiding land clearing and undertaking carbon farming projects,” said Vanessa Keogh, Project Manager, Towards Two Billion Trees, WWF-Australia.

“But first the Federal and Queensland governments must expand and improve incentives and markets and undertake some targeted regulatory reform."

“Crucial steps are fixing the Emissions Reduction Fund, expanding the Land Restoration Fund, supporting natural capital markets to develop, setting land sector carbon abatement targets, and improving extension services,” said Ms Keogh.

Ms Keogh said EY’s analysis provides detailed guidance on decarbonising the beef sector by 2030 and should inform the Queensland government’s response to the report, due soon, by the Native Vegetation Scientific Expert Panel.

Chaired by Professor Hugh Possingham, the Expert Panel was established after the SLATS 2018/19 report indicated land clearing had once again surged.

The Australian Government has committed to a net zero emissions target by 2050 and also signed on to the Glasgow Leaders Declaration on Forests and Land Use to halt forest loss and land degradation.

“It’s now time for government to take action to achieve these commitments. State and Federal Governments have the opportunity to support farmers and achieve emissions reductions. It’s a win for farmers, the climate, and koalas."

“Rewarding graziers who recover forests and improve biodiversity could be an important step to help Regenerate Australia,” Ms Keogh said.

“Deforestation is a reputational challenge that the beef industry must address,” said EY’s Climate Change and Sustainability Services partner Elizabeth Rose.

“As governments and investors seek to reverse environmental degradation and ecosystem loss, both regulation and markets will play key roles."

“Participating in environmental markets creates significantly more opportunities for the beef industry to address and reverse deforestation, at the same time as benefitting financially and for the good of the planet,” she said.


WWF-Australia commissioned four separate reports exploring carbon neutrality in the Queensland beef industry:

  • Modelling pathways to a carbon neutral Queensland beef sector through policy and investment to drive transition from deforestation to reforestation – University of New South Wales (UNSW)
  • Predicting abatement potential in Queensland beef producing regions – Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO)
  • Consequences for Australian emissions of land clearing in Queensland – The University of Queensland (UQ)
  • Regulatory market levers to support Queensland’s beef industry towards its 2030 carbon neutral target – EY

EY built on the first three reports to identify decarbonisation pathways. An approach focusing on incentives as the primary mechanism to minimise carbon emissions was deemed the more balanced option.

About Regenerate Australia

WWF’s Regenerate Australia is the largest and most innovative wildlife recovery and landscape regeneration program in Australia’s history. Launched by WWF-Australia in October 2020, the multi-year program will rehabilitate, repopulate and restore wildlife and habitats affected by the 2019-2020 bushfires, and help to future-proof Australia against the impacts of changing climate. Find out more and help Regenerate Australia at www.wwf.org.au/regenerate-australia