Clearing Enabled Australia To Be On Its Kyoto Target

In contrast to many Annex I countries, Australia is likely to meet its Kyoto target of an increase in emissions in 2008-2012 over and above 1990 levels of 108 percent. This achievement will come about not by the adoption by the Australian government of successful greenhouse abatement strategies but rather by the actions of the states of New South Wales and Queensland, which banned large-scale clearing of native vegetation on conservation grounds (Hunt, 2004).

In most countries LUCF was a net sink, but in Australia a quarter of the country's 1990 emissions were generated by land clearing. In the closing hours of the Kyoto negotiations, what became known as the 'Australia clause' was inserted, enabling countries for whom land-use change and forestry constituted a net source of greenhouse emissions to include them in the calculation of the 1990 baseline (Grubb et al., 1999).

Inflating the 1990 base by such a measure made reaching its already generous target of an 8 percent increase (compared with an average reduction of 5.2 percent for all Annex I countries) in emissions by 2008-2012 much more achievable. In what was looked upon as 'a sleight of hand' by most participants at Kyoto, the Australian clause omitted 'forestry' (Grubb et al., 1999: 122). This meant that forest sinks were not included in the baseline calculations but would be included in 2008-2012 calculations.

Australia has thus benefited on two fronts; first by being able to include 136 Mt of emissions in its 1990 baseline, which enabled it to emit a higher amount in its first commitment period, and second by claiming 21 Mt removals of emissions by its forestry sink since 1990.

The increase in emissions from electricity generation and transport has been large. Without the inclusion of LUCF in the baseline and forestry as a sink, the percentage change in emissions 1990 to 2008-2012 would have been 138 percent, rather than 108 percent (Commonwealth of Australia, 2007).

products or to prevent a decrease. Nor does the present system account for the substitution by wood, steel, concrete or other GHG-intensive products. In the latter case, however, the GHG emissions are already accounted for in the production of steel, concrete and other materials, so that crediting a substitution would in fact be double-counting.

The greatest anomaly in the Kyoto Protocol is the exclusion of deforestation in developing countries. Tropical forests lie mostly in developing countries, and their conversion to agriculture or logging is a major contributor to global GHG emissions. This anomaly arises because of the exemption of developing countries from caps on their emissions.

The inclusion of forest degradation in developing countries in an accounting framework, as well as deforestation, would incorporate emissions from the traditional and widespread use of fuelwood and charcoal in developing countries.

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