Australia’s proposed ‘Kyoto carryover’ - nature, scale, implications, legal issues and environmental integrity of the Paris Agreement

Emission reduction Paris Agreement Carbon emissions

Under the Paris Agreement, Australia has committed to reduce its emissions by 26- 28% below 2005 levels by 2030. Australia is now considering whether to count what it portrays as “overachievement” over the first Kyoto commitment period (2008-2012), and possible overachievement over the Protocol's second commitment period (2013- 2020), toward its emission reduction commitment (Nationally Determined Contribution) for 2030 under the Paris Agreement.

This paper briefly explores the rule set giving rise to Australia's claim of "overachievement", including the assumptions made in establishing Australia’s budgets for the first and second Kyoto Protocol commitment periods. We conclude that any claim of overachievement under the Kyoto Protocol does not represent any real emission reductions but is technical only, resulting from anomalies under Kyoto accounting rules and deliberate accounting choices Australia made. The same is true of Australia's 2020 Cancun pledge.

Some or all of the technical Kyoto Protocol "overachievement" derives directly from the fact that Australia had substantial domestic deforestation emissions in 1990, which have reverberated through its climate change accounting over the last two decades. It would be perverse, to say the least, to reward Australia in 2030 for large scale deforestation that took place forty years earlier in 1990. A portion of this recorded "overachievement" can also be said to come directly from Australia's decisions to allow itself an 8% increase in its emissions in the first Kyoto commitment period compared to 1990 levels and a minimal 0.5% reduction for the second -- in other words, the adoption of earlier targets that were quite unambitious.

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