The latest analysis from Reputex energy consultancy shows that Australia will not meet our 2020 emissions reduction target, except by using carry over credits from the Kyoto Protocol first commitment period (2008-2012).
Reputex highlights that the Government’s own figures indicate Australia will continue on a new upward emissions trajectory, with forecast growth of 6 per cent to 2020, despite current climate policy. The market report by Reputex estimates emissions growing to 4 per cent above 2000 levels by 2020 and that trend continuing with Australian emissions unlikely to peak before 2030.
The growth of our emissions is the opposite to most developed economies.
RepuTex executive director Hugh Grossman said the government was relying on “carry over” carbon credits from the Kyoto Protocol to meet it’s 2020 target, as reported in the Sydney Morning Herald.
“Meeting Australia’s abatement task is largely just a victory in accounting terms,” Mr Grossman said. “We have met our target, but we used a credit to get there, so it’s not a sign of any progress to reduce emissions.”
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull promised in Paris that Australia would meet and exceed it’s low 2020 carbon emissions target of minus 5 per cent on 2000 levels. His speech was eloquent but contained little of substance.
Yet our latest annual Greenhouse Gas Inventory report which was released on Christmas Eve shows our total Greenhouse Gas emissions rising by 1.3 per cent to June 2015, and our electricity sector emissions rising by 3 per cent.
Australia met and exceeded the Kyoto Protocol first commitment period target because Australia was allowed an exceedingly generous target of plus 8 per cent emissions on 1990 levels. We were allowed that target due to threats to block consensus and wreck the Kyoto Protocol in 1997.
Just before COP21 the Guardian journalist Lenore Taylor explained some of the history and detail of ‘How can it be possible for national emissions to rise over 30 years while a country “meets and beats” successive promises to reduce them?’. It is worth getting your head around some of this history.
Clive Hamilton summarises at the Conversation:
Compared to the base year of 1990, Europe promised to reduce its emissions by 8% in the five-year “commitment period”, 2008-12. The United States agreed to cut emissions by 7%, and Japan and Canada by 6%. Australia dug its heels in and got its way; its Kyoto target would be 8% above 1990 levels.
And then there was the addition of the “Australia clause” in the Kyoto Protocol inserted during final hours, which allowed Australia to include landuse emissions for it’s carbon accounting.
Sounds fair? Except we had a massive amount of land use change emissions in 1990 so our emission reduction target was from a very high base year. Emissions had already reduced significantly from this sector by 1997, which made the plus 8 per cent target so much easier to meet.
This artificially high base year allowed Australia’s emissions from all sources except land-use change and forestry to grow, and grow significantly. All up our emissions from all sectors except land use grew by 28 per cent from 1997 to 2012.
While most developed nations were actually putting in the hard yards in actual emission reduction in their economies under the first commitment phase, under John Howard’s Liberal Party Government (1996-2007) in Australia we pretty much carried on with business as usual and did not start the process of economic transition to any large degree.
Even though Australia was given substantial concessions under the Kyoto Protocol, we refused to sign up to ratify this international treaty for several years, following in the wake of the US Bush administration. We finally ratified the Kyoto Protocol after the Rudd Labor Government came to power in 2007.
As a result, Australia had 128m tonnes of carry-over credits from our Kyoto Protocol 2008 – 2012 reporting period.
So Environment Minister Greg Hunt applied to use these credits from commitment period one to apply to our targets in commitment period 2. Australia’s submission to carry over these credits was submitted after the Paris climate conference on 22 December 2015, in advance of the UN deadline of 2 January 2016.
Nothing wrong with that is there?
Well, during the Paris conference five developed countries stood up and announced they would not be applying these credits to their new targets, but cancelling them.
According to the Guardian report, Germany, Denmark, the Netherlands, Sweden and Britain all announced they will cancel 634.6m tonnes of emission reduction credits they were technically able to count towards their targets for the second Kyoto period. These credits have been described as a giant “hot air” loophole.
These countries actually had much more significant emission reduction targets than Australia in the first commitment period.
The UNFCCC final decision of COP21 actually calls for parties not to utilise these credits, as an enhanced pre-2020 action.
107. Encourages Parties to promote the voluntary cancellation by Party and non-Party stakeholders, without double counting of units issued under the Kyoto Protocol, including certified emission reductions that are valid for the second commitment period;
Australia, along with 194 other nations, agreed to this paragraph as part of the final COP decision which includes the Paris Agreement, yet we have proceeded to apply Kyoto carry-over credits to our own low 2020 target anyway.
Greg Hunt’s move to use the Kyoto carryover credits are out of step with both the UNFCCC and other developed nations.
So while Australia belatedly joined the Coalition of high ambition for the 1.5 degree target and an ambition mechanism, it has effectively thumbed it’s nose at the UNFCCC and international community by use of Kyoto carry-over credits to meet our low 2020 target.
On an international political level, our actions, rather than our words, continue to be miserly and against the spirit of international cooperation on climate change action and emissions reduction.