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Australia’s ‘betrayal of trust’ emissions plan to be tested in Madrid

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Australia’s latest emissions projections report, released over the weekend, showed the government is planning to count 411 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (MtCO-e) from the Kyoto-agreement era. The use of such credits would mean Australia could meet its pledge of cutting 2005-level emissions 26-28 per cent by 2030 with minimal effort.

Malte Meinshausen, co-director of the Energy Transition Hub at Melbourne University and a former climate negotiator with Germany, said it was good the Kyoto option appears “to be on the table”.

The use of Kyoto credits was “a betrayal of the trust which all countries signed up to at Paris”, Professor Meinshausen said, noting New Zealand, European Union and Pacific states opposed them.

While climate laggards such as Russia and Brazil may join Australia in opposing the Kyoto “option”, “it’s a reminder that the international community does not want to give up easily the good cooperative fruits developed in Paris”, he said.

Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg addressed as many as 500,000 people in Madrid, on the sidelines of a global climate conference in the Spanish capital.

Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg addressed as many as 500,000 people in Madrid, on the sidelines of a global climate conference in the Spanish capital.Credit:AP

‘Proud record’

Angus Taylor, the energy and emissions reduction minister who will attend the Madrid talks, said Australia had “a track record of which all Australians can be proud.

“It is important that overachievement is recognised and incentivised,” he said.

“Australia will certainly have to defend its carryover and depending on how the text evolves might find itself increasingly isolated,” said Richie Merzian, an emissions analyst with The Australia Institute and former climate treaty negotiator for the Australian government.

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“There are apparently over 100 countries supporting the restriction to limit Kyoto Protocol units from being used to meet Paris Agreement commitments,” he told the Herald and The Age from Madrid.

“Australia’s usual allies – other developed countries – either have ruled out using these credits voluntarily or don’t have skin in the game,” Mr Merzian said. “Australia’s only support might come from China and Brazil keen to use their carbon market credits from Kyoto to cash into Paris.”

Adam Bandt, Greens climate spokesman, said “Scott Morrison’s dodgy climate accounting is now up in lights on the world stage.

“Australia is burning at home, and Angus Taylor is turning up at an international event asking for the right to keep on polluting,” he said.

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Emissions projections

The updated emissions projections report forecast Australia’s emissions will drop 511 Mt CO2-e in 2030, or 16 per cent below 2005 levels.

The forecast said 51 per cent of National Electricity Market will come from renewable energy by 2030, in line with the 50 per cent target federal Labor took to the May election.

“[The emissions drop] is driven mainly by declines in the electricity sector because of strong uptake of rooftop solar and the inclusion of the Victoria, Queensland and Northern Territory 50 per cent renewable energy targets,” the report said.

“The government is banking on all the renewable infrastructure that they tried to kill” to meet their goals, Mr Merzian said.

Jamie Hanson, head of campaigns at Greenpeace Australia Pacific, said the Liberal National coalition had long been using “dodgy accounting tricks like these so-called carryover credits to mislead the Australian public on their appalling track record on emissions”.

“Scrapping the ability to rely on carryover credits and shifty accounting is a great step towards holding governments like Australia to account over their rising emissions,” he said.

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