Kyoto credit use will halve cut to emissions: Climate Change Authority

The Morrison government's plan to use so-called Kyoto "carryover credits" towards Australia's Paris carbon emissions reduction pledge effectively halves the country's promised cut, the government's climate change agency says.

In its Special Review of Australia’s Climate Goals, the Climate Change Authority said use of the projected surplus from the current Kyoto Protocol period would effectively slash Australia's promised 2030 emissions cut of 26-28 per cent on 2005 levels to just 14 per cent.

Angus Taylor has argued Australia will ‘meet and beat’ Paris carbon goals, but much of the reduction may come from the use of so-called Kyoto carryover credits.Credit:Alex Ellinghausen

While "there is a short-term benefit" for Australia, relying on credits "will essentially defer Australia's transition and require accelerated emissions abatement in future years", the Authority said.

Richie Merzian, a former Australian climate negotiator, said that "on the use of dodgy Kyoto credits, the message to the Australian government is clear – don't use them and actually reduce your emissions instead".

The report also noted among developed countries, "Australia is one of the most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change".

However, in order to protect the economy and "the natural systems that support us … Australia needs to participate in strong global action to reduce emissions," the Authority said.

It also advocated a trade and investment strategy that identified and made use of "our new competitive advantages in a global net-zero emissions world".

Energy and Emissions Reduction Minister Angus Taylor has been approached for comment.

Kyoto credits explained

  • Australia’s carryover credits come from its participation in an international climate agreement to reduce carbon emissions and curb global warming, known as the Kyoto Protocol.
  • The credits are the amount Australia exceeded its emissions reduction target for the first Kyoto period (2008-12) and the projected overachieved for Kyoto 2 (2013-2020). The latest calculation is 128 million tonnes of CO2-equivalent for Kyoto 1 and an expected 283 MtCO-e for Kyoto 2.
  • The Morrison government is counting the surplus towards Australia’s commitment to the 2015 international agreement, the Paris accord, where Australia pledged to cut 2005-level emissions by 26-28 per cent by 2030, and to hit net zero emissions by 2050.
  • Australia played hardball in negations over Kyoto targets. It was one of three nations – along with Norway and Iceland – permitted to increase its 1990 emissions by 2020 and was permitted to count savings from reduced land clearing, which has supplied almost all Australia’s Kyoto “over-achievement”.
  • Taken from 1990 to 2012 Australia’s emissions from industry grew by about 28 per cent, but the reduction in emissions generated by land-clearing restrictions dragged Australia’s emissions below the 8 per cent increase permitted. 

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