According to the latest greenhouse estimates, deforestation accounted for about 30% of national emissions in 1990. In subsequent years, it declined significantly, allowing Australia to increase fossil fuel emissions and exceed its first Kyoto target. This is known as the “Australia Clause” of the Kyoto Protocol, approved by the Howard government in 1997. Under the Paris Agreement signed by Australia in 2015, countries must monitor emissions reductions in line with international efforts to limit global warming to less than two degrees and as close as 1.5 degrees. The Kyoto Protocol is an instrument of the climate convention that was adopted in 1997 at the Third Conference of the Parties (COP 3), which only came into force in 2005.  The Kyoto Protocol requires some industrialized countries (the “Schedule I parts”) to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. The protocol has placed a greater burden on developed countries, which are largely responsible for high greenhouse gas emissions (so-called “common but differentiated responsibilities”). Australia signed the Kyoto Protocol in 1998, but did not ratify it until 2007. The first “commitment period” of the Kyoto Protocol ran from 2008 to 2012. Australia met and exceeded its first target of 108% of emissions from 1990 to 2012. The government has shown no signs of expanding the fight against climate change and has no intention of improving its NDC target for 2030, nor of adopting a net zero-reduction target or other higher emission reductions.
The government plans to achieve the NDC`s 2030 Paris Agreement target by using excess emission units from the Kyoto Protocol, significantly reducing effective emission reductions, while other countries have ruled out the transfer. Seven other states signed the Paris Agreement but did not ratify it. The professors, all from Australian universities, argued that the Kyoto Protocol and the Paris Agreement were “completely separate treaties.” As such, they stated that the Kyoto appropriations could only be used to achieve the objectives of the Paris Agreement, if this had been decided and agreed by all the contracting parties to the agreement. The Paris Agreement also provides, for the first time in an international climate agreement, that we must “strive” to limit the temperature increase to 1.5oC (Article 2). In Paris, the IPCC was invited to present a new special report (known as SR1.5) in 2018 on the effects of global warming of 1.5oC above pre-industrial levels. In addition, the parties are working to improve global greenhouse gas emissions “as soon as possible” (Article 4). At COP 15 in Copenhagen in 2009, it was hoped that a new legally binding agreement would be reached in line with the Kyoto Protocol.