.

  • Written by Frank Jotzo, Director, Centre for Climate and Energy Policy, Crawford School of Public Policy, Australian National University
Ice floe adrift in Vincennes Bay in the Australian Antarctic Territory. There are fears efforts to combat global warming will be undermined by double counting of carbon credits. AAP/Torsten Blackwood

In the four years since the Paris climate agreement was adopted, countries have debated the fine print of how emissions reduction should be tracked and reported. One critical detail is proving particularly hard to work out - and a weak result would threaten the environmental integrity of the entire deal.

The sticking point is rules for carbon markets: specifically, how to prevent double counting of emissions reductions by both the country selling and buying carbon credits.

These rules are proving a major barrier to reaching consensus. In December, the negotiations move to Chile for this year’s major climate talks, known as COP25. The double counting issue needs to be resolved. It will not be an easy job, and the outcome matters to many countries, including Australia.


Read more: The good, the bad and the ugly: the nations leading and failing on climate action


The Morrison government says Australia will meet the Paris emissions targets by 2030 without international trading - partly by counting old carbon credits towards its Paris efforts. But in future Australia may adopt a stronger target in line with global climate goals. This may entail government and businesses buying carbon credits from overseas.

In an article just published in the journal Science, we and our co-authors* explain why double counting could undermine the Paris goals, and how a robust outcome could be achieved.

The Port Kembla industrial works in Wollongong. Industrial activity is a major contributor to overall global emissions. AAP/Deal Lewins

What’s the problem here?

International carbon trading allows two or more countries to achieve their emissions targets more cheaply than if going it alone. Countries where cutting emissions is relatively cheap do more than is required by their targets. They then sell the additional emissions reductions, in the form of credits, to countries that find it harder to achieve their targets.

Carbon credits could be produced through activity such as replacing fossil fuels with zero-emissions energy, greater energy efficiency and electrification in transport and buildings, new technologies in industry and better practices in agriculture and forestry.

Rules for carbon trading are defined under Article 6 of the Paris agreement. Trading under the deal could be big: almost half the parties to the agreement have signalled they want to use carbon markets. Airlines might also become major buyers of emissions credits, under rules requiring them to offset increases in carbon emissions from international flights above 2020 levels.

The cost savings from using carbon markets could make it easier for countries to adopt more ambitious targets - ultimately resulting in greater emissions reductions.


Read more: There are three types of climate change denier, and most of us are at least one


But if trading rules are not watertight then the use of carbon markets could lead to greater emissions, undermining the agreement.

One fundamental risk is double counting: a country selling a carbon credit might claim the underlying emissions reduction for itself, while at the same time the country buying the credit also claims the same emissions reduction.

Obviously any international transfer of emission reductions should not lead to higher total emissions than if participating countries had met their targets individually. This could be ensured through a form of double-entry bookkeeping, wherein the country selling carbon credits adjusts its emissions upwards, and the country acquiring the carbon credits adjusts, by the same amount, downwards.

But the devil lies in the detail - and in the self interest of the parties involved.

Planes lined up at Sydney Airport. The aviation industry will likely buy carbon credits to offset its emissions growth from 2020. AAP

The bones of contention

Countries are wrangling over what double counting is, how it should be avoided and whether it should sometimes be allowed.

Some countries hoping to sell emissions credits, notably Brazil, propose rules under which emissions reductions sold to another country could effectively also be claimed by the selling country. Such rules existed under the Kyoto Protocol, which came before the Paris agreement. However under Kyoto developing countries did not have emission targets. All major countries have emissions targets under Paris, making the method unsuitable now.


Read more: Feeling flight shame? Try quitting air travel and catch a sail boat


Another potential pitfall lies in the potential purchase by international airlines of large amounts of credits to offset increases in their emissions. Aviation emissions are not counted in national emissions inventories. So it would be logical to adjust the selling country’s inventory for any emissions reduction sold to airlines.

But some countries, notably Saudi Arabia, argue that this should not be done because the airline industry is governed by a separate international treaty. This approach would allow emissions reductions to be included in both agreements and counted twice.

In a separate point of debate some countries - including Australia, Canada, Japan, and the United States - oppose the idea of a single international body overseeing carbon trading under the Paris agreement, arguing for more national sovereignty and flexibility between nations buying and selling.

Making things even more complex, the Paris agreement allows each country to determine how to frame their emissions target. Some countries frame them as absolute emissions, others as a reduction relative to business-as-usual, or as a ratio of emissions to gross domestic product. Some countries’ targets are simply unclear.

A deforested area in the Amazon forest in Brazil. Carbon credits can be earned by nations that retain forest rather than cutting it down. Marcelo Sayao/EPA

Letting each country determine its own ambitions and approach was key in making the Paris agreement a reality. But it makes accounting for carbon markets more complex.

There are also questions over whether a portion of carbon trading revenue should be allocated to help pay for climate change resilience in developing countries, and whether old credits from a trading scheme under the Kyoto Protocol, the Clean Development Mechanism, should be tradable in the new scheme.

The way forward in Chile

The solutions to all these issues will be nuanced, but will require that governments agree on some fundamentals.

The first is that a single set of common international accounting rules should apply, irrespective of which carbon market mechanism is used by countries or groups of countries.

The second is to ensure robust emissions accounting, regardless of how mitigation targets are expressed.

The third is that over time, all countries should move toward economy-wide emissions targets, as the Paris Agreement foresees.

The need to reach a political deal in Chile must not result in loopholes for international carbon markets. The rules must ensure environmental integrity and avoid double counting. If this is achieved, emissions reductions can be made more cheaply and global ambition can be more readily raised. If not, then the accord could be seriously undermined.

The article in the journal Science “Double counting and the Paris Agreement rulebook” is authored by Lambert Schneider, Maosheng Duan, Robert Stavins, Kelley Kizzier, Derik Broekhoff, Frank Jotzo, Harald Winkler, Michael Lazarus, Andrew Howard, Christina Hood. See here for the full manuscript.

Frank Jotzo leads research projects funded by various organisations and governments and occasionally consults. No conflicts of interest with regard to the substance of this article arise from any of these activities.

Lambert Schneider is Research Coordinator for International Climate Policy at Oeko-Institut. He conducts research projects for several governments, including Germany and the European Commission. He is also a member of the Excecutive Board of the Clean Development Mechanism and supports the European Union in international climate negotiations.

Maosheng DUAN receives funding from National Natural Science Foundation of China (project 71690243) and Ministry of Science and Technology of China (project 2017YFA0605304) which is relevant to this article. He is a member of the Executive Board of the Clean Development Mechanism and a member of the Chinese delegation for United Nations climate negotiations.

Authors: Frank Jotzo, Director, Centre for Climate and Energy Policy, Crawford School of Public Policy, Australian National University

Read more http://theconversation.com/double-counting-of-emissions-cuts-may-undermine-paris-climate-deal-125019

Golf Polo Shirts - Dressing Etiquette While Playing Golf

Have you ever pondered as to why the game of Golf has a more formal look and feel than most other sports? The origin of the sport has a lot to do with the dress code. Yes, you may be already guessin...

News Company - avatar News Company

Albanese promises a 'productivity project' in an economic vision statement harking back to Hawke and Keating

Anthony Albanese puts a “productivity project” at the centre of his economic agenda in the second of his “vision statements”, which seeks to further distance him from the Short...

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra - avatar Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

Friday essay: George Eliot 200 years on - a scandalous life, a brilliant mind and a huge literary legacy

A portrait of George Eliot at 30 by Alexandre-Louis-François d'Albert-Durade. Her masterpiece Middlemarch is often claimed to be the greatest novel in the English language. Wikimedia CommonsMa...

Camilla Nelson, Associate Professor in Media, University of Notre Dame Australia - avatar Camilla Nelson, Associate Professor in Media, University of Notre Dame Australia

These young Muslim Australians want to meet Islamophobes and change their minds. And it's working

While most research participants believe in the power of contact, dialogue and exchange to transform negative attitudes. ShutterstockThe political influence of the far-right, along with a more salien...

Ihsan Yilmaz, Research Professor and Chair in Islamic Studies and Intercultural Dialogue, Deakin University - avatar Ihsan Yilmaz, Research Professor and Chair in Islamic Studies and Intercultural Dialogue, Deakin University

From Marie Kondo's tuning fork to vibrators for 'hysteria': a short, shaky history of curing with vibrations

Vibration devices have been used to treat everything from 'hysteria' to hair loss. So Marie Kondo's tuning forks and crystals are nothing new. from www.shutterstock.comYou might remember how Gwyneth P...

Philippa Martyr, Lecturer, Pharmacology, Women's Health, School of Biomedical Sciences, University of Western Australia - avatar Philippa Martyr, Lecturer, Pharmacology, Women's Health, School of Biomedical Sciences, University of Western Australia

Five ways parents can help their kids take risks – and why it’s good for them

Have real conversations with your kids about what they're doing, and the potential consequences of their actions. from shutterstock.comMany parents and educators agree children need to take risks. In ...

Linda Newman, Associate Professor, University of Newcastle - avatar Linda Newman, Associate Professor, University of Newcastle

Smoke haze hurts financial markets as well as the environment

Sydney is currently blanketed by smoke haze from severe bushfires that have burned through New South Wales. Air pollution levels on Thursday reached hazardous levels for the second time in a week. T...

Naomi Soderstrom, Professor of Accounting and Deputy Head of Department, University of Melbourne - avatar Naomi Soderstrom, Professor of Accounting and Deputy Head of Department, University of Melbourne

Vital Signs. Untaxing childcare is a bold idea that seems unfair, but might benefit us all

Win-win? No-one would be worse off under the UNSW proposal. Over time it should pay for itself ShutterstockAustralia’s system of childcare support is pretty good. It ensures high-quality care ...

Richard Holden, Professor of Economics, UNSW - avatar Richard Holden, Professor of Economics, UNSW

Curious Kids: why does wood crackle in a fire?

If you've ever put wet wood on to a fire, you may have noticed it makes a lot more noise than dry wood. Shutterstock Why does wood crackle in a fire? – Rocco, age 6 (nearly 7!) Hi Rocco, th...

Rachael Helene Nolan, Postdoctoral research fellow, Western Sydney University - avatar Rachael Helene Nolan, Postdoctoral research fellow, Western Sydney University

How 1 bright light in a bleak social housing policy landscape could shine more brightly

In the year since the Australian government created the National Housing Finance and Investment Corporation (NHFIC), its bond aggregator, AHBA, has raised funds for affordable housing providers, allo...

Julie Lawson, Honorary Associate Professor, Centre for Urban Research, RMIT University - avatar Julie Lawson, Honorary Associate Professor, Centre for Urban Research, RMIT University

Grattan on Friday: Scott Morrison will go into 2020 with a challenging cluster of policy loose ends

Scott Morrison’s government is heading to the end of 2019 amid a debate about its economic judgement and with a number of substantial policy moves started but not completed. Morrison this week ...

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra - avatar Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

Office Interior Design Trends for 2020

We are approaching the end of yet another year filled with a combination of pleasant memories and those less memorable. It is usually at this moment that we start reflecting on what we’ve done a...

Diana Smith - avatar Diana Smith

New report shows the world is awash with fossil fuels. It's time to cut off supply

Australia's coal production is expected to jump by 34% to 2030, undercutting our climate efforts. Nikki Short/AAPA new United Nations report shows the world’s major fossil fuel producing countri...

Peter Christoff, Associate Professor, School of Geography, University of Melbourne - avatar Peter Christoff, Associate Professor, School of Geography, University of Melbourne

Enough ambition (and hydrogen) could get Australia to 200% renewable energy

Hydrogen infrastructure in the right places is key to a cleaner, cheaper energy future. ARENAThe possibilities presented by hydrogen are the subject of excited discussion across the world – and ...

Scott Hamilton, Strategic Advisory Panel Member, Australian-German Energy Transition Hub, University of Melbourne - avatar Scott Hamilton, Strategic Advisory Panel Member, Australian-German Energy Transition Hub, University of Melbourne

Dramatic and engaging, new exhibition Linear celebrates the art in Indigenous science

Maree Clarke's Men in Mourning (2011). Vivien Anderson GalleryAboriginal and Torres Strait Islander readers are advised this article contains images and names of deceased people. Review: Linear, Powe...

Heidi Norman, Professor, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, University of Technology Sydney - avatar Heidi Norman, Professor, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, University of Technology Sydney

NZ remains unscathed by US-China trade war, but that's no reason for complacency

While tariffs have a direct impact on exporters in the US and China, third-party countries like New Zealand are more affected by non-tariff barriers. EPA/Aleksandar Plavevski, CC BY-NDDespite disrupti...

Hongzhi Gao, Associate professor, Victoria University of Wellington - avatar Hongzhi Gao, Associate professor, Victoria University of Wellington

The NDIS is changing. Here's what you need to know – and what problems remain

Improving the provision of NDIS plans is a good thing. But in some parts of Australia, having a plan doesn't always mean being able to access services. From shutterstock.comNational Disability Insuran...

Helen Dickinson, Professor, Public Service Research, UNSW - avatar Helen Dickinson, Professor, Public Service Research, UNSW

Why Australia can no longer avoid responsibility for its citizens held in Syria

Detention camps in Syria hold about 100,000 Syrian and foreign family members of IS suspects. Murtaja Lateef/EPAThe small number of Australians being held in prison camps in northern Syria has been...

Anthony Billingsley, Senior Lecturer, School of Social Sciences, UNSW - avatar Anthony Billingsley, Senior Lecturer, School of Social Sciences, UNSW

An American company will test your embryos for genetic defects. But designer babies aren't here just yet

No gene for cuteness has yet been identified -- but give it time. ShutterstockDesigner baby, anyone? A New Jersey startup company, Genomic Prediction, might be able to help you. Genomic Prediction cl...

Dennis McNevin, Professor of Forensic Genetics, University of Technology Sydney - avatar Dennis McNevin, Professor of Forensic Genetics, University of Technology Sydney

Sick and Tired of Your Dead End Job? Try Teaching!

Tired of the same old grind at the office? Want an opportunity to impact lives both in your community and around the world? Do you love to travel and have new experiences? Teaching English is the perfect job for you! All you need is a willingness to ...

News Company - avatar News Company

The Impact of an Aging Population in Australia

There’s an issue on the horizon that Australia needs to prepare for. The portion of elderly citizens that make up the country’s overall population is increasing, and we might not have the infrastructure in place to support this. Australians h...

News Company - avatar News Company

LifeStyle

5 Things to Do On Your Wedding Morning

After months of meticulous planning, wedding mornings usually find the bride excited but stressed ...

How to Make Your Girlfriend’s Birthday Extra Special

Your girlfriend’s birthday is your opportunity to show her how much you care. But how exactly do...

A Guide to Building Your Kid’s Confidence

As your child grows, confidence is key. Having low self-esteem as a child can have a detrimental e...

3 Hacks that Will Extend the Life of Your Hair Extensions

Everybody has the right to enjoy beautiful, long hair, including you! If you’ve always heard a...