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Australia: Emissions set to soar by 2020

11th December 2014

To learn more, read our full briefing and the press release.

Australia’s emissions are set to increase substantially under the Australian Government’s climate policies to more than 50% above 1990 levels by 2020.  The Climate Action Tracker (CAT) finds no credible analysis that shows that meeting its Copenhagen pledge of (cutting emissions by 5% below 2000 levels by 2020) is any way plausible with present policy settings. The Copenhagen pledge, even if fully achieved, would allow emissions to be 26% above 1990 levels of energy and industry GHGs.

Under its current policies the Australian Government will very likely reverse recent declining trends in per capita emissions, so that per capita emissions increase.

In terms of emission effort, Australia will be going in the opposite direction to China and the US, who are putting effort into reducing emissions.

Australia has exerted considerable diplomatic effort over more than 15 years to secure accounting rules in its favour and that increase allowed emissions of GHGs – and this continues in Lima.   This has been done through its choice of baseline emission sources, and through lobbying for rules and/or approaches to accounting for land use change and forestry activities that result in extra emission allowances, In Lima, Australia is again working on a redefinition of emissions that would reverse the intent of an amendment to the Kyoto Protocol to limit surplus emissions allowances that would have the effect of allowing a further 6% to be added to its allowed emissions in 2020. This is just the most recent example of Australia lobbying for rules that undermine the integrity of the emissions accounting system as a whole and/or rules that carve out special exceptions to the detriment of all, but to the benefit of a few.

Based on the CAT assessment Australia may not need to do anything to meet its Kyoto second commitment period obligations (a 0.5% reduction from 1990 levels – or 99.5% of its 1990 baseline), a situation that also prevailed for the first commitment period (2008 to 2012). The CAT has quantified emissions credits from land use activities that could result in Australia’s allowed emissions from energy and industry approaching or exceeding 50% above 1990 levels in 2020.

The lack of fully transparent data does not permit scientifically-based verification of the published Australian Government estimates of Kyoto LULUCF debits for the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol, which are the opposite to the credits estimated by the CAT. In the absence of further information, the CAT believes it is more likely that an increase of 47-59% in energy and industry GHG emissions above 1990 levels could be permitted than the 27% increase according to published Australian government sources.  Fully transparent data on Australian projections and estimates of future LULUCF emissions and removals are needed in order for the CAT to revise, improve and, hopefully, even reverse our estimates.