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Australia must help bridge Cancun 'gigatonne gap'; Forest accounting tricks not helping

The only way the global climate negotiations finishing in Cancun in the coming days can be a success is for all countries, including Australia, to significantly lift the ambition of their emissions reduction targets, the Australian Greens said today.

"The massive gap between the Copenhagen commitment to constrain global warming to no more than 2C and the weak emissions targets on offer that would see the planet heat by twice that much, must be bridged," Australian Greens Deputy Leader, Senator Christine Milne, said.

"This has been dubbed the 'gigatonne gap' in Cancun, and it is difficult to see how global negotiations can be a success unless and until developed countries like Australia start to bridge the gap.

"Developing countries need to see good faith from the industrialised world and targets that fall well behind what the science and the Copenhagen commitments clearly require undermine trust in the process.

"As documents released on FOI to the Climate Institute show, the Australian government is well aware that China is already doing enough to warrant lifting Australia's target to 25%.

"Now would be a powerful moment to ditch the patently insufficient 5% target and move closer to what will actually be required."

The Greens understand that, in negotiations towards accounting rules for land use, land use change and forestry (known as LULUCF), Australia has joined those countries arguing for hugely inflated and unverifiable baselines to be set, allowing for rorting of the system.

"At Kyoto, the Howard government undermined the credibility of the agreement by ensuring that Australia's already weak target could be met by accounting tricks around land clearing.

"This time it is forestry that will provide the accounting tricks and undermine global emissions reductions efforts if the Gillard government gets its way.

"If we allow countries to set business as usual growth projections as their 'baselines' for forest emissions accounting, countries like Australia will not have to account for any emissions from logging as long as we don't log more than we currently plan to. Many millions of tonnes of pollution going into the atmosphere will simply be written off the books.

"According to calculations by environment groups, Australia's already unacceptable 5% target would be reduced to as little as 1% if this accounting rort is accepted.

"It is time Australia started treating climate negotiations as an attempt to protect the planet instead of another race to the bottom to protect business as usual."

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