The government revealed just prior to Christmas Australia was on course to over-achieve its 2020 target by 367 million tonnes of carbon-dioxide equivalent.
On current projections, Australia’s abatement task is 695 million tonnes of CO-e, meaning the carryover credits reduce the country’s emissions reduction effort by more than half.
Figures obtained by the Australian Conservation Foundation under freedom of information laws show Australia’s emissions are still on a rising trend.
By 2030, emissions will be 570 million tonnes of CO-e, up from 534 million tonnes in 2018, the Environment Department projections show.
That tally is also well above the 440 million tonnes implied by Australia’s pledge to cut carbon pollution 26 per cent from 2005 levels by 2030.
Suzanne Harter, ACF’s climate change campaigner, said the Morrison government was pre-empting global negotiations on the Paris Rule book by assuming Kyoto credits could be counted for Paris goals.
“This arrogant approach will not be appreciated by countries like New Zealand, Germany, the Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden and the UK, which have said they will not use carry-over credits to meet climate targets,” Ms Harter said.
“The Australian Government is already starting from a woefully inadequate pollution reduction target that is not in line with a safe future.”
While a federal Labor government would need to take advice on how to account for any Kyoto carbon surplus, the ALP remains opposed to their use.
Labor’s position “has been clear for some time,” Mark Butler, Labor’s climate spokesman, said. “We are very strongly against accounting tricks, cop-outs and other fiddles used to dodge the obligation we have to start to reduce our carbon pollution levels seriously.”
“Labor is committed to reducing carbon emissions by 45 per cent on 2005 levels by 2030, and [to reach] net zero emissions by 2050,” he said.
Richie Merzian, director of the climate and energy program at The Australia Institute, said Senator Birmingham’s comments were the “strongest commitment” yet that it intends to bank Kyoto credits and use them for the Paris targets.
To do so, though, would single out Australia among OECD nations attempting to take advantage of “loopholes of the past”, Mr Merzian said.
Tim Baxter, a researcher at Melbourne University’s Australian-German Climate and Energy College, said the Morrison government was gambling that other nations will be wary of pressing Australia too hard when they too may be seeking shortcuts to meet their Paris goals.
“There are not any rules on this and there are unlikely to be any rules,” Mr Baxter said.
Still, “it certainly wasn’t the spirit” of Paris to accept carryovers from the Kyoto period, he said.
Peter Hannam writes on environment issues for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.