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Australia accused of wrongly presenting emissions report

Press Trust of India  |  Melbourne 

Australia has allegedly wrongly presented its carbon emissions report by ignoring a massive rise in polluting gases from its agricultural and forestry industries, a report said today.

This "misrepresentation" by the government has led to severe criticism from all quarters at the UN climate summit going on in Copenhagen.

Australia has ignored a massive rise in polluting gases from agricultural and forestry industries, and has managed to make its overall emissions seem much lower than they actually are, the ABC said in the report.

While under the Kyoto Protocol, Australia is allowed to up carbon emissions by eight per cent compared to the 1990 levels, figures supplied to the UN earlier this year say that between 1990 and 2007, the nation's real carbon emissions actually rose by 82 per cent, the report said.

This dramatic increase has mainly been caused by rising emissions from rural lands, caused by bushfires and drought.

But those are the very same agricultural, grazing plains and grasslands that major political parties in Australia hope will help offset the country's rising industrial emissions.

Australia has led the charge on proposed land use rule changes to the new global climate deal. The changes will open the door to the bonanza of green carbon that can be stored away in the world's rural lands, the report said.

But the move is deeply dividing the Copenhagen conference. Christine Milne, climate change spokesperson for Australian political party, the Australian Greens, said in Copenhagen that the country has been trying to "cook the books".

"The United States has always wanted to use Land Use Land Use Change and Forestry as a mechanism for not having to do as much in its fossil fuel sector, and Australia has always been the fall guy for the US," she said.

"So I think what you are seeing is the umbrella group, chaired by Australia, including the US, including Canada, trying to really cook the books in some dodgy deals on land use."

"That is not an error. It is actually called Land Use Land Use Change and Forestry. Everything in these negotiations has an acronym -- this one is LULU_CF," she said.

But developing nations fear that with some changes to the existing rules, LULU_CF may be the way that countries like Australia will wriggle out of the reductions currently being negotiated for 2020 greenhouse targets.

A climate scientist for International Rivers network, Payal Parekh, says such loopholes will water down the carbon targets.

"It essentially means that developed countries, including Australia, could actually increase their emissions in the next few years," she said.

"What it means is that it is a total scam. It appears as if something is done, but it is not. The best way to sum it up is that it is a 'get out of jail free card'," she said.

First Published: Mon, December 14 2009. 13:20 IST