On Monday 30th November, the 21st annual Conference of Parties – that grand international climate conference where world leaders gather to debate how best to kick the can that bit further down the road kicked off.
Twenty-one of these, and Paris is looking set to serve up another dose of deja-vu with said world leaders quibbling about who should do what. None of the purely voluntary contributions on the table are backed by the science; they’re all grossly inadequate.
The continued rise in emissions twenty years on from the first COP indicates an elaborate waste of time. What is the point of these annual conferences if the result is not a reduction in emissions?
Australia’s report to the COP this year will essentially boil down to just one thing: we’ve already achieved our targets, so we can sit back and chill while someone else tackles global warming.
According to environment minister Greg Hunt, Australia has already met its 2020 greenhouse emissions reduction target. Chances are he’s spoken too soon; the next five years are likely to see increases that contradict his premature statement.
Nevertheless, such achievements are easy to tout when one shifts the goalposts and cooks the books on emissions accounting.
The target of 5% below 2000 levels by 2020 represents a shifting of the goalposts. In 1990, Australia had agreed to a reduction target of 20% below 1990 levels by 2005, which is not a target we came anywhere close to meeting.
The seismic shifting of Australia’s target occurred at COP 3 in Kyoto in 1997, where Australia wangled an emissions increase of 8% from 1990 levels as its target.
In practice, Australia’s ‘reduction’ target was a carefully controlled increase, with the commitment to 20% below 1990 levels by 2005 swinging to 108% of 1990 levels by 2015.
The Kyoto Protocol was then signed, but not ratified, and it took another five years for then Prime Minister John Howard to announce that the Protocol would not be ratified as it was ‘not in the national interest’.
You’d be forgiven for suggesting Kevin Rudd’s ten years-belated ratification in 2007 was PR-friendly lip-service.
Shifting the goalposts makes it that bit easier to score.