According to energy market analysts RepuTex Australia’s climate-changing greenhouse gas emissions are continuing to climb and show no sign of abating any time soon.
Hugh Grossman, executive director of the energy and carbon markets division of the firm, has said it was only tricks of accounting that made Australia’s emissions reduction task seem achievable.
Australia’s conservative Liberal-National government released greenhouse gas figures for the financial year ending in June 2015 on Christmas Eve, a move that didn’t go without some comment in environmental circles.
The government noted a climb in emissions of 1.3 per cent on the previous year.
“Out to 2020, the Government’s figures are showing about a six per cent increase in emissions,” Mr Grossman said.
Australia’s greenhouse gas target is to cut emissions by a relatively meagre five per cent compared with 2000 levels by 2020.
Only six weeks earlier, Environment Minister Greg Hunt told the National Press Club that Australia would “exceed our target by 28 million tonnes”.
Australia exceeded expectations in the first period of the Kyoto Protocol, which ended in 2012, effectively providing “store credit” for the second period, which ends in 2020.
This means Australia can emit above the five per cent target and use the credit to make up the difference.
The Kyoto Protocol rules have bipartisan support, meaning the Labor Party opposition is happy to go along with the creative accounting.
Emissions prevented through the government’s Emissions Reduction Fund (ERF) also count towards the Kyoto obligations.
“In absolute terms we won’t meet that five per cent target,” Mr Grossman said.
“The government has what’s called a carryover.
“They have a credit from past performance where we bettered our target that they are able to use or surrender in order to meet our 2020 international commitment.
“So we will meet our international obligations under the Kyoto Protocol. But if you like, we’re using a credit to achieve it. And that means that our real emissions can be above the target but we still meet it in legal terms.”
Mr Grossman said Reputex’s calculations showed Australia’s emissions would continue to grow year on year until at least 2030.
His concern was how the credits were calculated in the first place.
“There’s this National Carbon Accounting System, which is a sort of black box for the government’s accounts,” Mr Fry said.
“It can’t be interrogated because it’s a model and they won’t release all the data that’s within that model, so there’s a certain amount of uncertainty as to what Australia has counted as a credit.”