COP 15: Deals on ice, cooked books, and hot air

COP 15: Deals on ice, cooked books, and hot air

17 December 2009

published by

Denmark —

As snow fell in Copenhagen this week, hopes for a tough deal to tackle global warming at the end of two weeks of laborious climate change negotiations were in a deep freeze.

World leaders will tomorrow pose for their usual group photo, but whether they actually have something to smile about still remains to be seen.

Instead the iconic “I’ll be back” line of the Californian ‘governator’, Arnold Schwarzenegger – which he predictably dropped during an address to summit delegates – best sums up what happens next.

That is, leaders may come up with some sort of statement to collectively deal with climate change tomorrow but will more than likely fail in their attempts to achieve a global deal that is ambitious or binding.

More than 120 world leaders have zoomed in to the Danish capital for the final days of talks and intense political pressure combined with a looming threat of further violence and rioting on Copenhagen’s streets could still help produce a legally-binding agreement.

Discussions in all areas up for negotiation have been agonisingly slow, and the agricultural and land use discussions have been among the most complex and contentious.

Earlier in the week the Government was forced to defend accusations it was “cooking the books” and trying to fudge its emissions figures by arguing for major changes to carbon accounting rules governing land use.

The still-to-be-agreed-to changes, which farmers have been fighting for since the Kyoto Protocol was first agreed to in 1997, would omit bushfires and droughts from emissions calculations yet recognise land use opportunities by allowing farmlands to be considered a carbon sink.

Critics argue the move to change the accounting rules is a conspiracy to enable Australia, and others, to commit to major new greenhouse gas reduction targets without lifting a finger.

Green groups said a rule change would remove the need for Australia to reduce industrial pollution because it could all be offset in well-managed farmland.

Rural Press understands that by Tuesday, despite the snail’s pace of the discussions, good progress had been made in this area with some broad agreement on the need to accept natural events like bushfires and droughts are not necessarily man-made, and broad agreement on different accounting frameworks.

National Farmers Federation President, David Crombie, who was in Copenhagen last week, said the rules must change if agriculture is to play its part in helping reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

He said first the Kyoto rules exaggerate agriculture’s contribution to global warming, and treat agricultural emissions in the same way emissions from coal-fired power stations.

“They take no account of the natural carbon cycle that occurs within agriculture,” Mr Crombie said.

“We would therefore be arguing that it is misleading to report that agriculture is creating 16 per cent of Australia’s carbon emissions.”

Mr Crombie said currently the only option available for farmers to reduce their carbon footprint was to produce less or plant more trees, and a change of rules would ensure a better balance so farmers could continue producing food for a growing world population.

Minister for Climate Change, Penny Wong, said the Australian Government’s view had always been to improve the accounting rules to better reflect the reality of how to manage the land sector.

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