There’s a touch of irony in the fact the Australian government has invested $200m in the international Green Climate Fund, a United Nations fund to assist developing countries in adapting to and mitigating the effects of climate change.
There is, however, no equivalent investment fund by the government, or corporate Australia, towards developing sustainable economies on Aboriginal lands through one of those mitigation practices, namely carbon farming.
Investment in a sustainable Aboriginal carbon industry would directly impact climate change, Indigenous poverty and the management of traditional lands and waters. These are all key parts of meeting Australia’s commitment to the sustainable development goals (SDGs), specifically SDG13 (climate action), as well as SDG8 (decent work and economic growth), SDG11 (sustainable cities and communities), SDG14 (life below water) and SDG15 (life on land).
The government formally adopted the sustainable development goals in Paris last year. At the same time the UN called upon the international business community to play their part in achieving the goals, saying their success relies heavily on action and collaboration by all actors.
Paris is a long way from an Aboriginal community in Cape York undertaking carbon farming or central Australia where I live, and so is Sydney. But climate change is the great equaliser. All Australians experience the hotter summers, crazy storms and pungent smoke from out-of-control bushfires that float into the cities and towns. Climate change is like the polluted air all people, rich and poor, have to endure in Beijing and around the world. It impacts on us all.
One of the ways Indigenous people are taking action on climate change is through carbon farming. Carbon farming is simply managing vegetation to increase carbon storage or reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Early dry season savannah burning across northern Australia is the most popular form of carbon farming practised by traditional owners and Aboriginal ranger groups today, and it’s something that comes naturally to most of them. As a young ranger I recall the old blokes always having a smile on their face and a spring in their step when we went out burning in the national park. The young blokes loved it too. The work is enjoyable and satisfied their cultural obligations to country.
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