UN BODY ACCUSES AUSTRALIA OF HIDING EMISSIONS FROM FORESTRY AND LAND USE CHANGE
The United Nations Climate Change body has accused Australia of hiding greenhouse gas emissions from forestry and land clearing in the UN Expert Review Team’s report on Australia’s greenhouse gas inventory, the Wilderness Society and Humane Society International said today.
The inventory reveals that Australia’s emissions since 1990 have risen dramatically in the energy and industrial sectors, and that it is only the claimed reductions in emissions from the LULUCF sector (Land Use, Land Use Change and Forestry) that prevented Australia from recording a 30% increase in emissions. A 7% increase is reported.
The UN Expert Review Team made particular comment on issues with the National Carbon Accounting System (NCAS), and on underestimations of emissions from forest clearance and from fire in forests and native vegetation.
The Wilderness Society and Humane Society International, who are Australian-based members of a new international alliance, the Ecosystems Climate Alliance (ECA), are calling on the Rudd government to admit the problems of reporting and accounting in the LULUCF sector that they inherited from John Howard, and to make a commitment to make them honest.
“Honesty is a big issue for Australia where greenhouse gas emissions from forestry and land clearing are concerned and we want the Rudd government to fess up to the system they inherited that covers up emissions, and act to fix it so that Australians know what is really happening and what we must do to reduce the impacts,” said Virginia Young, spokesperson for the Wilderness Society.
“The very pointed question mark put over Australia’s underestimations, lack of transparency, and lack of completeness in its greenhouse gas report for forestry and land use change is particularly alarming because Australia is relying on this sector to satisfy its international obligations in the face of increasing emissions in energy production and industry.”
“Reporting has been fiddled to make forestry operations and deforestation appear climate friendly, even though cessation of land clearing in Queensland enabled a claim to huge emissions reductions due to the selection of 1990 as the base year.”
“The much vaunted National Carbon Accounting System comes in for criticism over its lack of transparency, and as a result the UN expresses a lack of confidence in the inventory data on forestry and land use, saying it must be verified,” said Nicola Beynon for Humane Society International.
“Carbon released from forest clearance is underestimated according to the UN experts, who express strong reservations about the method by which the biomass of that forest was inferred.”
“Australia also failed to deliver on an undertaking to review methane emissions factors used to estimate carbon release from burning forests and native vegetation. The UN says this is an important emissions source they believe has been underestimated and for which the UN guidance has not been followed.”
“The upshot is that Australia is cheating on the amount of emissions from clearing forests and from the burning of forests and native vegetation, a situation which is unacceptable.”
“ Where emissions result from an extraordinary natural event such as wildfire we need to know what those emissions are and then devise ways to ensure that such events and emissions are reported but distinguished from things like fuel reduction fires in a way that avoids penalizing Australia for massive emissions it could not have controlled,” Ms Beynon concluded.