The NGO calculates that “even if rates of land clearing do not continue to decline then emissions from Australia’s fossil fuel and other sectors can increase by 22%”. If the Government succeeds in reducing land clearing levels by a further 20,000ha per year then the Australia Institute estimates that a 28% increase will be possible without jeopardising the country’s Kyoto commitment. If there is no net loss of vegetation, a third scenario being considered, then fossil fuel and other greenhouse gas emissions could increase by 33%.

Australia succeeded in adding a last-minute clause to the Kyoto Protocol that allows it to include emissions from land clearing in its 1990 baseline figure. This has had the effect of increasing the country’s allowable emissions during the crucial period of 2008-2012 by an extra 6%.

The Australia Institute predicts that Parties to the Kyoto Protocol will scrutinise the country’s land-clearing data very carefully in order to be sure it is providing accurate figures. The organisation also points out that had 1991 been chosen as the Kyoto baseline year then Australia would be having a much more difficult time meeting its climate change target – 1990 had a much higher level of land clearing than any subsequent year.

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