News ID: 262695
Published: 0639 GMT December 09, 2019

About 100 countries at UN climate talks challenge Australia's use of carryover credits

About 100 countries at UN climate talks challenge Australia's use of carryover credits
SHUTTERSTOCK

Australia’s plan to use an accounting loophole to meet its international emissions targets has been formally challenged at UN climate talks, with about 100 countries wanting the practice banned under the Paris Agreement.

Delegates from developing countries led by Belize and Costa Rica have introduced a ban on using carryover credits from the Kyoto protocol into the text of the rulebook for the Paris Climate Agreement, which is being debated at a meeting in Madrid, theguardian.com reported.

It is a crucial debate for the Morrison government — the federal executive government of Australia led by the Prime Minister Scott Morrison — as it relies on using the accounting measure to meet its commitment under the Paris deal. The Energy and Emissions Reduction Minister Angus Taylor arrived in Madrid on Sunday to make Australia’s case at the second week of the talks.

Emissions projections released as Taylor left Australia suggested the Morrison government was on track to meet its 2030 target (at least a 26 percent emissions cut below 2005 levels), but only if it used carryover credits. Without them it expected emissions to achieve just a 16 percent cut. Government advisers found Australia’s fair share under a meaningful global deal would be at least 45 percent.

Carryover accounting rules allow countries to claim credit for exceeding previous targets against future targets. They were allowed under the soon-to-be-obsolete Kyoto protocol to encourage countries to be as ambitious as possible. They were not mentioned in the original text of the Paris Agreement.

The introduction of a ban on what are described as “Kyoto units” into the negotiating was the clearest sign that countries that had expressed opposition to their use were determined to follow through. Some observers at the talks described the clause as an “anti-Australia” option.

Bill Hare, the chief executive of Climate Analytics in Berlin and a long-time adviser to developing countries at climate talks, said using carryover credits was opposed by three major negotiating blocs — the alliance of small island states, the least developed countries group and the independent alliance of Latin America and the Caribbean — as well as Canada, Switzerland and Norway.

 “There [are about] 100 countries supporting this [challenge],” Hare said from Madrid.

The government has said it earned the right to use the credits through previous efforts. Opponents say it could claim access to the credits only because Australia set unambitious targets under the Kyoto protocol, including allowing emissions to increase by up to eight percent between 1990 and 2012.

They say using the credits was at odds with the Paris Agreement, which committed countries to escalating action that reflected their “highest possible ambition”.

Officials told Senate estimates earlier this year that as far as they were aware Australia was the only country planning to use carryover credits. Several developed countries had explicitly ruled out using them.

Hare said the European Union, South Africa and Papua New Guinea, representing a group known as the coalition of rainforest nations, had not embraced an outright ban in Madrid but supported a time limit on their use.

Some major countries including China, India and Brazil have sided with Australia in opposing the ban, at least in part because as written it would also outlaw using Kyoto protocol-era offsets generated in their countries that can be sold to developed nations in lieu of reducing their own pollution.

Richie Merzian, a former Australian climate negotiator and now climate energy director with the Australia Institute, said it was possible the wording of the text would be altered to ban just carryover credits but not carbon offsets. He said China, India and Brazil were far more influential with developing countries than Australia and had a specific interest that could be catered for without allowing carryover credits.

“Australia has a single issue that could be targeted and that’s always risky,” Merzian said. “It means the minister has to start the week on the defensive.”

Australian officials have indicated the government’s position is that using the credits is non-negotiable. As decisions at UN climate talks are by consensus, Australia could stand alone to block a ban, although it would be expected to face significant pressure if isolated.

Faced with objections from the British high Commission at a meeting with business groups last month, Australian officials said there would need to be a diplomatic solution to the standoff.

Official data shows Australia’s emissions have not come down and several analysts have found it was not on track to meet its Paris target

   
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