Toughest questions ducked in UN climate review

Published 05:58 on June 1, 2015  /  Last updated at 13:34 on June 1, 2015  /  Asia Pacific, Australia, Canada, Climate Talks, International, Japan  /  No Comments

Most nations, with Canada a notable exception, have replied to queries over their climate policies posed in a UN review process, but the toughest questions, including several addressed to Australia, mostly received soft answers.

Most nations, with Canada a notable exception, have replied to queries over their climate policies posed in a UN review process, but the toughest questions, including several addressed to Australia, mostly received soft answers.

The UN last month published questions from rich and poor countries alike directed at developed countries as part of an international climate policy review process, and gave nations until May 28 to provide answers.

Many nations, including China and Brazil, were especially critical towards the efforts Australia and Canada are making to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

A UN website has now uploaded each nation’s replies, although the Canadian section remains empty, indicating Ottawa may have missed the deadline.

A number of countries expressed scepticism over Australia’s Direct Action Plan, asking the government to provide an estimate over how many tonnes of CO2e it expected the plan, including its Emissions Reduction Fund (ERF), to reduce, but Australia would not be drawn.

“The appropriateness of providing estimates of the impact of the Emissions Reduction Fund on Australia’s emissions will be considered for future projections,” the Australian response said.

It said that publishing such an estimate might impact the government target of using the ERF to buy emission cuts as cheaply as possibly, indicating that an estimate might reveal the minimum price the government is willing to pay for cuts under the fund.

The document did reiterate, however, that Australia does not have any plans to meet its 2020 target through buying international offsets.

Australia fended off a request from Brazil to explain whether it would improve on what has so far been a “low level of ambition”.

“Australia’s 2020 target is ambitious and comparable to other advanced economies across a range of base years and metrics such as percentage change in emissions, reductions in emissions per capita, emissions intensity and emissions from business-as-usual,” it said.

It also declined a request from China to specify what sort of international action was required for it to raise its 2020 target to 15% or 25%, noting instead that “the Government is currently reviewing Australia’s international targets”.

JAPAN

Meanwhile, Japan used most of its submission to defend the Joint Crediting Mechanism (JCM), with a number of countries asking how it would ensure the scheme would avoid double-counting given the lack of UN oversight.

“The issue of double counting may occur in all market mechanisms including the CDM in which mitigation outcomes are transferred internationally and, therefore, it should be dealt with internationally,” Japan said.

“These accounting rules need to be developed under the UNFCCC as soon as possible and Japan is willing to contribute to the processes for establishing such rules.”

Japan had also received criticism for withdrawing its initial target to cut emissions to 25% below 1990 levels by 2020, and replacing it with a “temporary” target of reducing GHGs to 3.8% below 2005 instead.

“Regarding the 2020 target, a firm target, based on further review of energy policy and energy mix, will eventually be set at a later stage,” Japan’s submission said.

By Stian Reklev – stian@carbon-pulse.com