Australia to lock in Kyoto hot air

The government has announced it is prepared to commit to a target of reducing emissions by 0.5% below 1990 levels under a Kyoto II international agreement. Signing onto such an agreement will lock-in a massive free-kick of 90m tonnes of CO2 hot air for Australia.

The government has confirmed that Australia is prepared to take on a target of keeping emissions 0.5 per cent below 1990 levels averaged over the period 2013 to 2020 for any international agreement that replaces the Kyoto Protocol. 

Green groups are trying to get us all animated about international climate negotiations but I’m struggling to get enthused. The reality is that, if anything, the government’s commitment to join onto an international treaty is a bad thing for emissions.

That’s because it probably makes no difference to what the US and therefore China are likely to do. We’ve already helped encourage action from other countries through our domestic actions of putting a price on carbon, introducing the Renewable Energy Target and energy efficiency measures.

Yet by singing onto Kyoto mk II, Australia gets to keep a great big free kick from the hot air land clearing provisions Howard government Environment Minister Robert Hill managed to extract back in 1997.  

To illustrate, consider this chart below illustrating Australia’s estimated emissions from land-clearing.


The emissions from land clearing in 1990 are more than three times what they are expected to be over the 2013-2020 period.

What’s more, this free kick from the prior Kyoto agreement has meant we’ve now stocked up about 90m tonnes of CO2 credits due to our emissions falling below our agreed target during the original Kyoto 2008 to 2012 commitment period. These will be counted towards meeting our target over the 2013-2020 period. To give you a feel for how big this free kick this is:

-- It's equivalent to being able to wipe out the entire emissions from the transport sector for a year;

-- It's bigger than the reduction in emissions in 2020 expected to delivered by the carbon price.

No wonder the government is keen to sign on to a second Kyoto commitment period.

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