Rapid Response: Your Second Mission

If you picked up the Sydney Morning Herald or the Melbourne Age this morning, you would’ve seen the front page story about Australia trying to cook the books at Copenhagen. Kevin Rudd was just grilled about it on ABC Radio – and it’s about time.

The big lie of the climate summit is finally being revealed. We wrote about it months ago in the Cheat’s Guide to Copenhagen. And now, Australia’s negotiators have finally been caught out.

Heard of LULUCF? Most people haven’t. But it’s a HUGE deal at Copenhagen, and is part of the fine print that could mean Australia’s final agreement isn’t worth the paper it’s written on.

You can read some background below or just skip through to your instructions at the end.

Here’s what they’re trying to do

The Australian negotiators are trying to change the rules relating to how emissions from land use are counted.

What they want is for Australia to be allowed to count the carbon that gets sucked up by the soil and vegetation, while not including the emissions produced from this sector. And they produce alot. In 2002-03, bushfires resulted in around 190MT of emissions – equivalent to 27 average-sized coal-fired power stations for a year. But this wouldn’t count.

It’s basically a scam that would make it much easier for Australia to meet a higher emissions reduction target without actually having to do anything.

Here’s why it’s a problem

Australia pulled off a similar scam in the Kyoto Protocol back in 1997 – infamously known as “The Australia clause”. It meant that Australia’s actual greenhouse pollution (from burning coal, oil and so on) could continue unchecked while we could still look much better than we actually were.

The big risk is this: with this kind of accounting fraud, Australia can look like it’s taking climate change seriously, while we go on pumping greenhouse pollution into the atmosphere.

The only way we are going to solve the climate crisis is if we start to transition away from fossil fuels and towards clean, renewable energy, stop deforestation and take other measures to cut actual emissions.

Accounting tricks won’t fix the problem.

YOUR INSTRUCTIONS

Our team on the ground in Copenhagen is working hard to build consensus around a real solution for land use that will actually reduce our overall carbon emissions. We need your help to keep the issue in the public spotlight so our team can pressure the negotiators for the right outcome.

Please make a quick call to Penny Wong’s office on 02 6277 7920 or send her an email to senator.wong@aph.gov.au. You can also leave a message on her online contact form here.

What to say. Tell Senator Wong that you are concerned about what you are hearing in the media about Australia cooking the books. Here are some quick talking/writing points to help.

1. I am concerned that LULUCF is being used as a way for Australia to cook the books at Copenhagen.

2. Australia managed to cheat its way through Kyoto. I don’t want us to do it again at Copenhagen.

3. I want Australia to adopt a strong target of at least 40% cuts by 2020 and I want this to come from real emissions reductions, not some accounting fraud.

4. I agree that land use is important, but not if it’s just used as an accounting trick to let the coal industry off the hook.

5. It is fraudulent to only count the positive side of land use and not the negative side. It is like only counting deposits in your bank and ignoring all of the withdrawals. It is cheating.

Got it?

We’ll hopefully have some more info tomorrow morning and will update you as soon as we get anything in.

We’re still waiting to hear back on the CCS in the CDM issue – but will keep you posted.

Thanks for taking action and stay tuned.

PS: Keep up-to-date with what’s happening in Copenhagen on our Climate Emergency website.

  • Gayle

    Rang Penny’s office. Had a long chat with office person. She said she would pass on the message to Penny.

  • Olivia

    I just sent Sen. Wong a very wordy email asking her to stop this fraudulence.
    Thanks for the tip-off! We can only hope that she listens.

  • Colin Purnell

    Dear Penny Wong,
    You’re embarrassing me as an Australian. I want Australia to adopt a strong target of at least 40% cuts by 2020 and I want this to come from real emissions reductions, not some accounting fraud.
    A very annoyed citizen.
    Colin Purnell.

  • Ben Dynan

    I wrote a new letter for Penny Wong and thought i’d post it to you guys. I think you could create maximum effect by having a ready-to-use template with a pre-written letter or the option of editing the letter. Ben

    To the Honourable Minister Wong,

    I am writing to communicate my concern about the carbon accounting methods that Australia is pushing to have adopted at Copenhagen. I am concerned that LULUCF is being used as a way for Australia to have an inaccurate carbon account that conceals the true level of emissions in Australia. We famously disgraced ourselves in the Kyoto Protocol by introducing what was known as the”Australia clause.” This meant that Australia’s actual greenhouse pollution (from burning coal, oil and so on) could continue unchecked while we could still look much better than we actually were.

    It is important to create a holistic framework to respond to global warming and account for carbon in the atmosphere. Bio-sequestration can play an important role in drawing down vital amounts of carbon from the atmosphere, however land use should not be used as an accounting trick to conceal the true level of emissions. It is a highly fraudulent position to adopt an accounting method that acknowledges the positive contribution but not any negative externalities. It’s like trying to keep a bank account that acknowledges all deposits but tries to ignore withdrawals.

    I’m concerned that if we adopt this accounting method and continue to emit at or close to current business-as-usual levels we will contribute to further warming which will result in the kind of bushfires that will deplete the level of carbon currently locked down and stored in our native bushland. I want Australia to adopt a strong target of at least 40% cuts by 2020 so that we can preserve our farms and bushland.

    In order to play our part and commit to our ethical responsibility I want us to adopt this in a fair and ambitious binding treaty which makes real emission reductions from polluting industry, not through some accounting fraud that conceals our emissions in land reductions.

    Yours Sincerely

    Benjamin J Dynan

  • Katie Carroll

    I sent this…

    Senator Wong,

    I deeply concerned (although not at all surprised) that you and Prime Minister Rudd are trying to use fraudulent accounting to cheat your way out of making a real and meaningful commitment at Copenhagen. By Australia only deducting emissions sucked up by soil and vegetation and not counting them again when they are re-released into the atmosphere through bush fire and drought, the only people we fool will be ourselves.

    Indeed neither history nor later generations will be fooled by such tactics. Just as your predecessors are judged for their fraudulent accounting under Kyoto, your dirty tactics too will be noticed.

    If only you could use this creative energy to focus on real solutions to climate change, and not just creative accounting, you and Prime Minister Rudd could go down in history as true leaders, instead of just dodgy accountants.

    Game theory suggests in situations such as these we must all co-operate together for the greater good of all. It only takes one self-interested party to spoil it for everyone. Don’t let it be us.

    Let’s adopt real targets of 40% by 2020, and do it through real emissions cuts, not emission loopholes…because the atmosphere (holey enough as it already is) knows better.

    Kind regards,

    Kate Carroll