Australia

Federal government urged to ramp up climate action as it reportedly intends to abandon carryover credits

Protesters hold placards at a climate change rally in Sydney in January. Source: AAP

Environmentalists say the government's expected decision not to rely on Kyoto carryover credits to meet its Paris target opens the way for a climate policy reset.

Labor has rubbished Scott Morrison's "rather pathetic" intention to scrap the use of so-called carryover credits to meet emissions targets, as environmental and aid groups argue that greater climate action is still needed.

The prime minister is expected to tell world leaders next week that Australia won't rely on the controversial accounting method to achieve its 2030 emissions reduction targets under the Paris agreement, Nine newspapers have reported. 

Australia has faced international pressure over its intention to use of carryover credits, which would involve claiming credit for exceeding emissions targets under the previous Kyoto agreement.

Opposition leader Anthony Albanese was on Saturday unimpressed that the government could drop the credits, describing the development as "rather pathetic".

He said the government wasn't doing enough in the short of long term to tackle climate change, and a decision to not to rely on carryover credits should not be viewed as a positive.

"It is a fact that the rest of the world rejected that as an accounting trick. That's not a plus for the government," Mr Albanese said in Brisbane.

"What we need is a plan to reduce emissions, not a plan for accounting tricks."

Greenpeace Australia, meanwhile, welcomed the news but said it was now time for the federal government to bring a "meaningful" climate policy to the table.

Spokesperson Nelli Stevenson on Saturday said the government had been stalling on climate action and the "dodgy accounting" had led to Australia being shamed on the world stage.

“Australia needs a strong, federal climate policy, not a federal government kicking back on the heavy lifting being done by states, territories, and businesses who are getting on with the job of moving to safe and reliable 100 per cent renewable energy," Ms Stevenson said in a statement.

"It's time to walk the talk and ramp up ambition beyond Australia's weak Paris targets."

Oxfam Australia called for a commitment to net-zero targets by 2050 or sooner.

“The Kyoto carryover credits were never a legitimate way for Australia to achieve the 2030 emissions reduction commitments we made in Paris," chief executive Lyn Morgain said in a media release.

"Cancelling them is the right thing to do. But this must only be the first step in raising Australia’s ambition and commitment to tackling the climate crisis."

Ms Morgain pointed out that Australia had just experienced its hottest November on record, and Pacific leaders had recently condemned Australia's emissions reduction target and urged the government to take stronger action on climate change.

“In the face of accelerating climate change, Australia can and must stand with our Pacific neighbours by matching our ambition to the scale of the threat these communities face," she said.

The federal government's current goal is for a 26 to 28 per cent reduction on 2005 emissions levels by 2030.

While it's understood a final decision on scrapping the credits is yet to be made, Mr Morrison did previously flag that Australia may no longer rely on them. 

"We have the option of using these credits towards our next commitment period," Mr Morrison said at a business event in November. "My government's ambition is that we will not need them."

He is reportedly expected to tell other leaders that Australia won't use carryover credits at a summit hosted by UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who this week urged world leaders to bring ambitious plans to reduce emissions and set net zero targets.

Mr Johnson has himself just announced a new goal to cut the UK's emissions by 68 per cent this decade, compared to 1990 levels.

Attorney-General Christian Porter said on Saturday that it had always been their position that they would try everything they could to meet Paris targets without having to rely on "the fact that we over-performed with respect to our Kyoto targets".

"When you look at Australia's performance compared to virtually every other country on Earth, when we set targets , both in Kyoto and Paris, our history is that we don't just meet those targets, we beat those targets," he told reporters in Brisbane.

SBS News has contacted the Prime Minister's office for comment.

With reporting by AAP and AFP.

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