Australians should be very troubled that the Gillard Government is trying to rort the system through renegotiating the rules on Land Use Land Use Change and Forestry (LULUCF) under the Kyoto Protocol in at the Durban climate conference. the Australian Greens said today.
New accounting rules being pushed by Australia and other developed countries like Canada, if adopted, could hide globally half a billion tones of greenhouse gas emissions from logging whilst at the same time setting up a scam that could result in logging credits instead of debits.
"Australia must agree to an historical baseline of its logging emissions in the negotiations and not be allowed to get away with creative accounting," Australian Greens Deputy Leader, Senator Christine Milne, said.
"Emissions based on historical data must form the baseline, not the projected emissions of the imagination.
"We cannot allow reductions to appear on the books but not in the atmosphere.
"It is a lose lose for the climate and undermines the integrity of climate action.
"Australia must stop undermining genuine efforts to properly account for greenhouse gas emissions and be a positive force in the negotiations."
Explanation of the proposed rort:
Currently the rules around LULUCF are optional so that, if a country's forest management activities generate emissions that will make it harder to achieve its greenhouse reduction target, it can choose not to be part of it. That is why Australia has never opted into article 3.4 of the Kyoto protocol.
But now there is a move to make accounting for logging emissions mandatory. So the accounting rules become paramount and every developed country including Australia is now trying to set up rules that allow them to cheat.
if a nation's logging emissions are above the baseline, it will be penalized against its target. but if it fails to achieve predicted baseline logging levels, even if those levels are higher than what was logged previously, it will be rewarded with credits against its target. It is in every nation's short term national interests to inflate the baseline.
Australia wants to set a baseline not on historical data of what was actually logged, but rather on a projected baseline into the future, calculated on total possible emissions if every forest that could be logged under the Regional Forest Agreements was logged. That way there is no possibility of ever exceeding the baseline.
Then if logging is less than that baseline, Australia gets carbon credits and makes achieving its target easier.
Everyone already knows that the logging is likely to be less than the projected baseline figure because of the collapse in the market for native forest wood chips. So Australia is lining up to secure a fake climate saving against its target. A great big blast of 'hot air', as thee credits are known globally, is coming our way.
Alternatively, if a new market emerged for native forest wood, Australia could increase logging above existing levels and the emissions would not be counted against our target because they would not exceed our projected inflated baseline. We would have avoided any commitment to reducing logging emissions and any penalty for having done so.
These are political and technical games that undermine the integrity of the system and make constraining global warming to less than 2 degrees even harder.