The Australia Institute belled the cat on the Morrison Government’s plan to rely on accounting tricks rather than make actual emission reductions. Our research showed these Kyoto credits are the equivalent of eight times the combined emissions of the Pacific including New Zealand, and this one accounting trick represented the single largest government policy on climate change.

Building on the Institute’s 20 year history covering Australia’s shady climate negotiations, we unpacked the legal, moral and diplomatic problems involved in use of controversial units from the previous climate agreement, the Kyoto Protocol, to avoid reducing emissions under the Paris Agreement. The Institute commissioned international advice around the status of the Kyoto units, finding them legally baseless and raised the issue through local and international media, online explainers and opinion pieces.

The Australian government became increasingly isolated and the diplomatic cost was clear as foreign governments singled out Australia as a key blocker of international progress, including by the new Biden administration in the United States. By early December 2020, the Prime Minister stepped back from his position and the accounting trick vanished from the government’s climate plans.