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Australian strategy on land-use emissions at Copenhagen to achieve deeper cuts is no revelation

December 14, 2009

If you have been reading the Australian media and newspapers today and yesterday, you might believe that the Australian Governments’ strategy at Copenhagen to include land-use emissions to assist in meeting deeper national emissions cuts is an amazing new revelation. 

For example, see Messrs Borschmann and Pearse in the Sydney Morning Herald, who apparently needed to be in Copenhagen to spot this story.

It should come as no surprise, however.

The strategy has been there for all to see for some time.   My readers will know this by reading my previous blog on the subject for example, which outlines the issues in some detail, and is based on publicly-available negotiating text.

The tricky thing is separating out the risk from the opportunity in pursuing the range of carbon sequestration options – which is what the Australian strategy sets out to do.

Despite the science of sequestration being fraught with difficulty, the promise of accounting for sequestration emissions holds great danger.  All it would take is a major bushfire or two at the end of a Commitment Period to blow the national carbon budget out of the water. 

Such an event would require at the last minute a possibly significant foray into the international carbon market to buy permits in order to balance the books.  That could be a costly exercise, given carbon market volatility.

It seems it would be a smart risk management exercise to ensure that emissions reductions are also coming from elsewhere in the economy in order to avoid such nasty surprises – i.e. through the implementation of an emissions trading scheme as a part of a package of measures……

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