The JUICE Media Podcast

We need to talk about carbon offseting rorts | with Polly Hemming

Episode Summary

Ep 30: In which I ask Polly Hemming a billion questions to help us better understand how the Coalition is rorting carbon credits and offsets and the shit-buffett that is the Clean Energy Regulator and Emissions Reduction Fund.

Episode Notes

This is the podcast companion to our latest Honest Government Ad about Carbon Credits & Offsets 

You can also view this episode of the podcast on our YouTube channel - which we recommend as it includes our video conversation.

👉 You can follow Polly Hemming here
👉 You can find out more about The Australia Institute here
🔹 Polly Hemming & Richie Merzian, Spin Bin Episode: 'Dodgy Carbon Credits & Dodgy Hydrogen'
🔹 Polly Hemming and Richie Merzian, Questionable integrity: Non-additionality in the Emissions Reduction Fund’s Avoided Deforestation Method)

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👉 Editor and Producer: Ellen Burbidge

🎹 Music by Tom Day

📜 Transcript by Jesse Dowse

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Episode Transcription

Transcript by Jesse Dowse

Hey there, Giordano here from The Juice Media. Welcome back to The Juice Media Podcast, a companion to the Honest Government Ad series. As you know, our coal-fondler-in-chief has finally announced the date of the election. For the past three years we've been making Honest Government Ads, tracking this government's bullshit scams, rorts, climate inaction and miscellaneous bastardry, so by now, you know the reasons why the coalition needs to be voted out at this election. 

But if you needed one more excellent reason to convince your conservative voting friend or family member to put the coalition last on the ballot, you'll find it in today's podcast, which is the companion to our latest Honest Government Ad, about the coalition's massive carbon credits and offsetting scam- I mean scheme. 

Excerpt from Honest Government Ad

“You know how when you book a flight you can pay a little extra money to offset your emissions? Well, now imagine that your money was actually being spent on strippers and coke, except the strippers are our mates, and the coke is gas. Congratulations. You're ready to learn about our Australian carbon credit units. Let's take a look.” 

Giordano

Whoever wins the election in May, carbon credits and offsetting will continue to be a crucial issue. And that's because both major parties running in this election are leaning heavily on carbon credits and offsetting in order to achieve their net zero targets, not just here in Australia, but worldwide, as most wealthy nations are opting to offset emissions rather than ending fossil fuel burning, which of course is what we should be doing. However, we can't just bend the whole idea, because there are some areas where we currently have no easy alternative to avoid emitting greenhouse gases, and that is why we actually need carbon credits and offsetting schemes that work, but they need to be genuine offsets, not fuckoffsets. 

Unfortunately, most people don't understand how carbon markets and offsets work, let alone the way they've been rorted by the coalition, and how they're actually contributing to rising emissions. Which is why I've dedicated this Honest Government Ad to this topic on the eve of the election, and to help us unpack our latest Honest Government Ad and better understand carbon credits and offsets, I have as my guest today an expert on the topic, Polly Hemming. A researcher and advisor in the climate and energy program at the Australia institute, Polly's work focuses on the involvement of the fossil fuel industry in carbon markets. I hope you enjoy our chat, and I'll catch you on the other side.

Giordano

Welcome to The Juice Media Podcast, Polly Hemming, it's great to have you here. 

Polly

Thank you very much, it's lovely to be here. 

Giordano

I follow a lot of your work on Twitter, you're one of the people that's really helping to inform, you know, the community here in Australia, and I'm sure also overseas about what's happening with all of this really quite technical and complicated stuff around carbon credits, and offsets and other stuff, and we're going to get geeky with you about carbon credits and offsets in this podcast, but to lead us into that, I want to ask you about the coming election. By now everyone will know that our coal-fondler-in-chief has announced the election for the 21st of May, and I want to know from a climate and energy policy perspective, how do you see this collection shaping up? Who are the main contenders, and where do you see any solutions, if any, lying? 

Polly

The way I see it as a voter is we've got the incumbent, we've got the coalition, who as you just described, the coal-fondler-in-chief, who's accompanied by, I guess, an array of coal-fondlers, but the coalition, Liberal National Party, have a target, a climate target of 26% to 28% reduction by 2030 on 2005 levels, which is just inadequate any way you look at it. I think it represents something like three degrees of warming. There's both material support and continued advocacy for gas and coal through to 2050 and beyond, that's actually one of the lines in the Net Zero plan. 

The Australian government currently has no credible emissions reduction policies. They do have this one climate policy that we will talk about today called the emissions reduction fund, but beyond that, there's nothing else really. I think it's a complete absence. Everything you see in the net zero plan is things like carbon capture and storage, or blue hydrogen, which is to be clear, fossil hydrogen, so it's just backing in more fossil fuel use. 

Giordano

But why are you so negative Polly? It's positive energy. Positive energy. Haven't you seen the ads? Come on. Come on. Well then, we're getting- We're gonna get onto the ad campaign, but what are the alternatives? A lot of people post in our comments and go, “Tell us, you know, who do we vote for? Is Labor just as bad? Do they have a credible alternative to this? How do you see the opposition's climate policy heading into the election?” 

Polly

Sure. Yeah, it occurred to me as I was saying that I was telling you probably everything that people already know. 

Giordano

It’s good to remind people.

Polly

Labor has a climate plan which is a 43% reduction, which is not as strong as their previous target that they took to the last election, but it's significantly better than the coalition's climate target. They also have a really strong renewables plan, so active investment in renewables, and investment in r&d and hard to abate sectors, which we'll probably talk about today, like steel and metals manufacturing, and things like that. They are probably - We're talking about offsets today - They're also relying on carbon credits as part of their plan, I should have mentioned that in terms of the coalition as well, but the emissions reduction fund isn't their only climate policy. So, they're better, but they're still not aligned with what the science says we need to do. I would say that Labor is also- I mean, they've made no commitments to phasing out gas or coal. Like the coalition, they receive significant donations from the fossil fuel industry. 

Putting those two aside, you've also got, obviously, The Greens as a contender, and what's really exciting is you've got this vast array of independent candidates, who have cropped up all over the place, who have significantly more ambitious climate policies than I would say either of the major parties. 

Giordano

As we've spoken about, the coalition is spending millions of dollars on this ad campaign, positive energy, but as we've shown in a lot of our Honest Government Ads over the past year, a lot of this positive energy campaign is massively deceptive in the sense that it's, you know, they're still going to plan to expand fossil fuels, but they're trying to dress it up as climate action with bullshit solutions like carbon capture and storage, clean hydrogen, and of course, carbon credits and offsets which we're talking about today. And as you mentioned, the Labor party has a more ambitious target, but precisely because it is more ambitious they're going to be relying on offsetting even more, and especially because the Labor party is also planning to expand fossil fuel production. So they'll be trying to offshit- Offset the shit out of these-

Polly

Freudian!

Giordano

With carbon credits. Offshit is another way - we could have had fuckoffsets and offshits. Why didn't I think of that?

So, is it fair to say, Polly, that regardless of who wins this election, carbon credits and offsets will be absolutely central to climate policy in the years to come?

Polly

Yeah. Carbon credits and carbon offsetting in there, and there is a distinction we can talk about, are central really to either of these parties’ climate policies as you said, and that's why it's really important that these carbon credits have integrity, and that there's also some guidelines about how they're used, so currently- And the risk is that they will be used as a licence to pollute. It's actually not what they're for. They're really for those genuine- They have a narrow application, which is for those genuinely hard to abate sectors, but yep, to answer your question directly, they're probably critical to both parties’ plans. 

Giordano

Right. So, let's just assume that Labor wins this election, and they form a formed government. What would a Labor government need to do about the shit buffet- The shit buffet is this collective term for the Clean Energy Regulator/insurance committee/the emissions reduction fund. What would they need to do to fix it to ensure that we don't get fed the shit buffet for another three years? What would you like to see them do? 

Polly

I think that the very first thing, which is what they've committed to, is doing a review of the shit buffet. Well, they've committed to a review of the emissions reduction fund. I don't know how far that extends in terms of governance, but you know, there's more than just the fact that these credits, as your ad suggests, are not real or additional, but the governance of them has significant problems as well, so really, if it was me suggesting a review, I would say, A. an inquiry into how we got here, how this happened, you know, we had this fund, nominally called the emissions reduction fund, that is now somehow facilitating emissions increases, so something happened along the way there for that to happen, and inquiry into that, and then a review of all these major methods, particularly those three major ones that are issuing credits, and that are being used to offset emissions, you know, should they still be used by the emissions reduction fund? And how can we make this system better, so these carbon credits do have integrity, and they're used with integrity? 

Giordano

Okay, so at this point, a lot of people would be going, “Hang on, I'm confused. What the fuck are we talking about here?” Because one of the real challenges with this issue, is that it actually is complicated, and it's messy, and there are all these different moving parts. You've got the Emissions Reduction Fund, you've got the Clean Energy Regulator, you've got the Assurance Committee, there are different methods, it's complicated stuff. And this is, honestly, probably very simply one of the reasons that we have the situation, is that people just don't- Are not equipped with the literacy that's required to really understand the scale of the rort of public funds, and on top of that, how this isn't even going to reduce the emissions, so there's a double view here, buried in this situation. 

So, talk us through it, Polly. Let's get geeky. Carbon credits and offsets, what are they? And perhaps, you know, the situation that you've mentioned now, we've recently had Professor Andrew Macintosh from the ANU, who has come forward and blown the whistle, saying the offsetting scheme is a rort, he's been central to designing the- And and being part of implementing these things, so it's a very credible source. What is going on here? What are the ways in which our carbon credits have been failing to actually abate emissions? 

Polly

Sure. So I'll start right from the beginning if you want, just explaining what carbon credits are in Australia. I kind of wish I had a white board to explain all this. I might just gesture wildly at you. So if I start from the emissions reduction fund, right, it's this scheme plus a bucket of money, and there's a bit of history to it, but- Which I can go into as well, but basically now, in its current iteration, it's a scheme that issues carbon credits, or ACCUs, Australian Carbon Credit Units, to projects who carry out various activities across the economy that reduce or avoid or store carbon, or CO2, sorry, not carbon, or other greenhouse gases. 

And it's things like, you've addressed some of them in your Ad, like retaining vegetation instead of clearing it, or planting trees, or capturing methane from landfill gas facilities, instead of it being vented into the atmosphere, and for each tonne of CO2 that you store or avoid, you get given an ACCU, a carbon credit, and you can either then sell that, sell that carbon credit back to the government, as the ad says, and the government uses taxpayer money from the emissions reduction fund, it's this 4.5 billion dollar bucket of money, sell it back to the government, or you can sell that credit on what we call the voluntary market, which is to businesses who want to offset their emissions, so when you produce the carbon credit, it's just a carbon credit, right? It represents one tonne of CO2 reduction. When a business buys it, and then uses it to compensate for releasing a tonne of CO2 into the atmosphere that's when it becomes an offset, so that's the clarification between carbon credits and carbon offsets, and currently- 

Giordano

I was just going to say, just to clarify for people that, you know, when we see the government saying, “We've got a plan for net zero by 2050 or by 2030,” or whatever, That plan, that reduction of emissions relies on the system that you're going to talk about now, working. What are the ways in which these credits are supposed to work and what does Andrew Macintosh review? What has he actually brought out into the open about what's not happening? 

Polly

What it means when they're real is that the carbon's actually been stored or avoided, that's number one. There's this really important concept too, called additionality. So the whole point of the emissions reduction fund was to incentivize these activities that were additional to business as usual, so to try and get farmers to plant more trees than they were going to, or not cut down trees that they weren't going to. Otherwise, sorry, thinking that counterfactual- What Professor Macintosh found - and the Australian institute has written a report about this too - is that a majority of these carbon credits are either not real, or not additional, or in some cases both. So there's three main ways, currently, that people can generate carbon credits in Australia, that are being sold back to the government and used as offsets, and Professor Macintosh kind of assessed these three biggest, we call them methods, these activities, assessed these three biggest methods and found that they weren't resulting in real abatement or it was an additional abatement. 

Giordano

So I'm sure people listening by now will be wondering, “Is it a mistake that our carbon credits and offsets are being run so poorly, or is it by design? Is the shit buffet actually meant to be shit and it's working exactly as intended?” Where are we with that, and if it is working as intended, why is it being run this way? Who benefits from our carbon credits being dodgy and how do they benefit? 

Polly

Yeah, the shit buffet, as you call it, is working the way it's meant to under the current government. It doesn't mean it's working for climate, or for taxpayers, but it is, I would say, largely by design, and I guess by that I mean that carbon credits are being used cosmetically, at least, to bridge the gap between, kind of, two fundamentally contradictory ideas. So a push for gas expansion in Australia and, you know, support for the fossil fuel industry, and a net zero commitment, or emissions reduction commitment. So the best way that you can, kind of, bridge that gap is if you increase the supply of carbon credits that are available to the fossil fuel companies, and what happens when you increase the supply of something, the price drops.

Giordano

Right.

Polly

Also good for fossil fuel companies! And one way, it's not the only way of making something cheaper, is to reduce the quality of something. So, the issues that were raised over a number of years that weren't picked up, you know, potentially fairly innocently, has actually served the government fairly well now because it has maintained this large supply of carbon credits, so the result, or the aim of the buffet is not actually to have a high quality product, it's to allow the gas industry and and other big emitters to be seen to be offsetting their emissions on paper, so yeah, in that sense, the system's working, probably just not as you, or I or many others would like it to. 

Giordano

So, you know, when people go to book a flight and there's that little box that says, “Do you want to offset your emissions?” How do people know, you know, how do you know whether that's actually going to offset? I mean, we've talked about dodgy carbon credits but that's within the government scheme. Does that mean that all offsets that airlines are selling to offset emissions are also in that same bag, or is that a safe way to actually- You can actually be confident in those offsetting schemes? 

Polly

Yeah, that is a brilliant question, and you've just highlighted the fundamental issue here in Australia and globally. Right, Carbon credits are financial instruments, which means you should have some assurance that someone has certified them and said this is legit. We have all these different frameworks, whether it's, you know, government administered frameworks like we have in Australia, or overseas you have these voluntary carbon credit frameworks, but either way, you have these frameworks that are- Should be doing due diligence, and ensuring integrity, and they should be checking out all these projects, checking whether they're even legal, you know, they've been set up in developing countries with consent, and they're actually representing real reductions. Unfortunately, I don't know of any carbon credit framework around the world that I could 100% say, “Yes, these credits represent something real,” so I'm not telling people what to do, because they are financial instruments. 

I can't give you financial advice, but if you really wanted to go that extra step, and see whether your money was being spent wisely, look at what the actual project is. Depends how committed you are, you could probably look up that project yourself. You should be able to rely on the fact that it's been verified by some external certifier, or auditor. This is what we're finding out. It's generally not the case, and yeah, there's ways of telling which projects are additional and real, or not, but but I guess furthermore, business- It would be far more efficient for businesses to actually lobby government, or advocate for clean energy in Australia, than it would be for them to kind of go through these really complex processes where they're purchasing carbon credits on behalf of customers potentially being pinged for greenwashing, you know, you'd get much more bang for your buck, timewise and financially, if there was this push saying to government, “We're finding it really hard to decarbonize. We're having to rely on offsets. What are you going to do about it, because it's making us look bad.” That- I really don't understand why more of that doesn't happen. 

Giordano

More bang for your buck, and also the bonus added feature of not killing the planet and every living thing that's on it. 

Polly

Yeah, I mean sure, whatever, if that’s important to you, but yeah, you're right. Why aren't businesses shouting as loudly as fossil fuel companies are? 

Giordano

Yeah, so, I mean, hearing this, it sounds like, and I think everyone would really go, “Well, a system like this really hinges on one key fundamental thing, and that is trust.” Like, there has to be- You have to trust that people are actually doing the work, and I want to say that, you know, there obviously are a lot of land holders and businesses who are doing the right thing. It's not, you know, as Andrew Macintosh came out saying, you know, 70% to 80% of those ACCUs are not abating anything, but that, you know, there's 20% or 30% that are, so one of the really painful things, is that people who are doing the right thing are being fucked over as well by this whole system. 

Polly

This is a really big issue around carbon credits. So, you know, there's traditional owners, and conservationists, and land holders who are relying on this system to make a living, and I used to live in Arnhem Land and I've worked for an indigenous ranger group, and I have some idea of how important, you know, savannah burning projects or carbon credit projects can be, but if the product on which this entire market is based, i.e. those carbon reduction from those credits is found to be not working, then that immediately jeopardises all these other good things that the production of that carbon reduction was resulting in, and I think that's something that we just we need to acknowledge and potentially address in other ways, whether it's through environmental markets or different ways, but a whole lot of people are being let down by this system, not just the people buying the dodgy credits, or the taxpayer, like, there's collateral damage all throughout. 

Giordano

What are some of the things- You know, we've mentioned some of the conflicts of interest that exist in the shit buffet, but perhaps you could give us a clearer sense of, you know, can we trust this government to be implementing this scheme with integrity? I mean, what are some of the warning signs that you've seen that say that maybe we can't? 

Polly

Probably one of the biggest warning signs- Oh god, where to begin?

Giordano

Well that's- You've said it basically, yeah.

Polly

I think you've got the Clean Energy Regulator, which is an independent statutory government body, and this body, as the ad says, like, designs carbon credit methods, in conjunction with industry. So, you already see the gas industry is kind of infiltrated there, and that was one of the recommendations of Grant King, that industry be more deeply involved with developing carbon credit methods. 

Giordano

Grant King is the former CEO of Origin who is also- 

Polly

Former boss of Origin, who's awesome. Yep. He's now chair of the climate change authority. So the CEO develops methods in conjunction with industry. It then issues carbon credits to the active- To the projects carrying out activities according to those methods, which is the rules, basically. It regulates the people who are carrying out those activities, and then, kind of, the kicker is this body, all these functions used to be carried out separately by different organisations. The government has mandated the Clean Energy Regulator to buy these carbon credits back on its behalf, but not just on its behalf, but at lowest cost. So you've got this whole kind of carbon credit factory, where you are making the product that you are also going to be buying as cheaply as possible, which- 

And this goes back to transparency, you can't see anything that's happening within that whole process, like, within the sausage factory. You don't know what's going in, and what's coming out. 

And then, on top of that, like, over here we've got this little peripheral, also an independent statutory committee called the Emissions Reduction Assurance Committee, and that is staffed by the Clean Energy Regulator, but what that committee is meant to do is assess a carbon credit method, as in the rules for developing a certain type of carbon credit, and then advise the minister for energy and emissions reduction Angus Taylor. Sorry, you know who I'm talking about when I say Angus Taylor. Choke on the emissions reduction bit. They're the ones that advise Minister Taylor on whether that carbon credit method is legit or not, like, Angus, yes developing carbon credits from CCS is a really great idea. It's fully legit. Here, you should sign off on it so we can get Santos registered. So they're the ones providing that advice. In the current context, members of that Emissions Reduction Assurance Committee also have industry interests, like, if we use the carbon capture and storage carbon credit method as an example, they also are involved in industry or fossil fuel lobbyists who helped to design the carbon credit- The CCS carbon credit method that would benefit their industries, and then they also told the minister that, “This is a really cool carbon credit method, and it's totally fine, and there's nothing wrong with it and you should definitely approve it.” So does that kind of paint a bit of a picture about what's going on here?

Giordano

Yeah, so again, you know, Chris Bowen, the labour party has said that if elected they will conduct a short sharp review. That's how they've discussed it, described it, but it sounds like what's needed is more than just short and sharp, it needs to be quite an in-depth- So obviously, great that Labor has said they will review the system, but it will need to be seen whether some of the- Whether they- It'll be, you know, a proper review that will actually deal with the problem, or whether it's just you know shuffling the deck chairs and going, “Ta-da, you know, we've solved it. We solved this problem.” Because, and this is one point that I kind of want to leave off and I want to ask you one more question after this, but it's such an interesting tension, because on the one hand, we know that carbon credits and offsets aren't the solution to the climate crisis. Stopping burning fossil fuels, that's the thing we really need to be working hard on, and offsetting is important for those sectors, as you said, that are hard to abate, like agriculture, and steel, and aviation, so we need to use those systems. So we can't just chuck- Because it's easy to go, “Oh, well this is a whole shit buffet is shit, chuck it out, you know, we don't need it, but we actually need carbon credits and offsetting to work as part of the transition towards eliminating fossil fuels, so there's this tension. I don't know, can you comment on that, because I see some people- Sometimes people are confused, like, “Are we supposed to hate this or are we supposed to like?” It's like, why not both? You can hate the system and also want it to work, right? Isn't that an interesting kind of- To me it seems interesting that there's that tension there. 

Polly

There is a tension there, but I think you nailed it early on. If, I mean, if we phased out fossil fuels, it's highly unlikely we'd be in this mess in the first place. We'd be talking about a much smaller issue, and the system would be far less, I think, vulnerable to being rorted. So, I think we absolutely do need activities that are designed to incentivize reducing emissions, or storing emissions, or avoiding emissions. It's with integrity. It's then who is able to use them. So they shouldn't be used by Woodside so it can start selling shipments of carbon neutral LNG, it should be used by the industries, you know, that genuinely have no other option. But either way, you know, even if these carbon credits are not being used as offsets by industry, so much taxpayer money is being wasted if we're not carrying out carbon credit generating activities that are additional and real. You know, a billion dollars has been spent, approximately, on carbon credits that the government's bought back so far, that are kind of worthless. That's a lot of money that could have been spent on renewables. Sorry, I'm deviating from the question, but yeah, it's vexed. It's not one of those binary things where you can say, “They're shit,” or, “They're not.” 

Giordano

And there's more billions in that fund, right? The emission reductions fund is, like, four and a half billion dollars, so there's a lot more public funds at stake here if this- If the roth isn't fixed. Polly, one of the really disturbing things about carbon credits, and this, you know, well, yeah, like-

Polly

One of!

Giordano

Another really disturbing thing about carbon credits, it's the way that carbon credits and offsets can be used as a way to further exploit countries in the global south. In the Honest Government Ad we mentioned carbon colonialism. This isn't a clever joke, it's an actual thing that's happening. Could you unpack that for us and talk about the IPCOS scheme which we mentioned in the Honest Government Ad, which most people won't have heard about because there's almost nothing about it in our media. What's happening on that front and what are the implications for our neighbours in the pacific region, and I guess also in the global south generally? 

Polly

Okay, so in the Australian government's net zero plan, they have said that to get to net zero Australia needs 94 million international carbon offsets to get to net zero. I'm not sure what Labor’s stance is on that. They haven't made any comment, but I just want to hark back to a few years ago when Scott Morrison was in parliament doing a Borat impersonation, do you remember this? 

Giordano

Just refresh our memory I vaguely-

Polly

I don't want to do it myself. Basically, he was saying Labor reckons it's going to meet its climate targets by buying car- Like, carbon offsets from a piggery in Kazakhstan. I don't even know if they sell carbon credits. But then he did, like, this horrible Borat impersonation. Can you do it? Can you do the voice? 

Giordano

Why do you want to drag me into this? 

Polly

Maybe just get the clip! 

Giordano

I'll play the- Cue the clip. 

Scott Morrison (In Clip)

The Borat tax, which will be put on by the Labor party, with carbon credits from Kazakhstan, and I know it, I know what Borat would think of the Labor party's policies on a mission's reduction, Mr speaker, “Very nice, very nice.” 

Polly

Okay. So-

Giordano

We've seen the clip now, so carry on, yeah. 

Polly

Now, the coalition has stepped right back from that, and have said, “Oh no, actually we do need international carbon credits.” They're setting- They're doing this through setting up a scheme called the Indo-Pacific Carbon Offsets Scheme, which you mentioned in the Ad, and what that is, it's a one-way bilateral trading scheme where Australia buys carbon offsets. And they will be used as offsets, that's why I use that term, to try and meet Australia's international climate targets. And they've identified two countries so far, Fiji and PNG, and they've signed up. Potentially, Timor Leste will be signing up as well, but this whole system appears to be just a reiteration of the way that, you know, carbon trading between very wealthy and developing economies or poorer countries has always kind of played out, like, there's been this dynamic in the past, where rich countries have not wanted to stop emitting, so the solution has been, we will just buy carbon offsets from developing countries who can sell them cheaper, because they can make them cheaper in developing countries, and they're dependent on the income from that, but what that allows us to do is not change any business practices. We just offset, throw a few bucks at the Pacific, and everyone's happy. Except the people, you know, in the developing countries, really. So, it's always been a fairly questionable practice, despite the promises that people make, you know, that it increases everyone's climate ambition into in both countries, you know wealthy countries, and developing countries, and there's technology transfer developed to developing countries, like, that allows them to get off fossil fuels, and transition to a clean economy. It's very rarely played out that way, and why now it's particularly problematic, is because traditionally these developing countries didn't have climate targets to meet, so they could just sell as many offsets, or carbon credits, or emissions reductions as they wanted to. 

Now, all signatories to the Paris Agreement, this overarching global climate agreement, every country has a climate target to meet, so a little country like PNG, who is highly dependent on fossil fuels, largely thanks to Australian companies, and finance from the Australian government, and has a- like, an expanding gas industry, has very limited means to reduce its own emissions to transition its economy, yet it's also having to meet its own climate targets so it's a pretty exploitative relationship, not only- Sorry, yeah, did you want to say something? 

Giordano

Well, no, just so that people follow here, because, and you know, you mentioned that for carbon credits to actually be offsetting they need to be additional, and of course they need to be real, but there's the other thing that they need to do, is that they can't have double counting. So what you're describing is another potential flaw in in the architecture of the carbon credits, is that if this transaction is happening, PNG, if PNG starts to, you know, grow a forest, or do something that is a carbon abatement, if they've sold that to Australia to offset our emissions, they can't count that. Well, they shouldn't, because if they do then that's another rort of the system and they can't count that as emissions, so it's eating into the head room that so-called developing countries have, which is needed in order to improve the quality of life of people there, so what you're describing is a system, if I've got this right, that in order for fossil fuel companies and the global north to continue emitting, in order for us to maintain what we've come to regard as essential to our quality of life, we are basically paying countries that are less industrially developed, from being able to do that themselves. So in a sense, that's an exploitative system. It's not justice, you know, in terms of how to solve the climate crisis, we are once again shifting the burden on to the global south. 

Polly

Yeah, and I think, to go back to that word, disturbing, you know, the relationship with small island developing states is particularly disturbing, because you've got a country like PNG or other pacific nations, who have repeatedly asked Australia to stop producing and burning fossil fuels, and not only have we ignored them, we've- Australian companies have just exported their operations and set up shop in these countries, PNG in particular, ignored them, continued to produce on country there, and then said, “Hey, also, can we have your carbon credits too?” So-

Giordano

And has Labor said anything about IPCOS? Is this something that they've commented at all? Is this something that they're planning to also push forward, or have they not said anything? 

Polly

No, they haven't said anything, but it would be great to know what their-

Giordano

Right.

Polly

What their position was, there. I mean, there's the architecture that the coalition is setting up currently, interact with the Paris Agreement, and article 6 of the Paris Agreement, so if they set up that architecture now, there's no reason why an incoming government couldn't just use it. 

Giordano

So we're talking about something that's going to be- Something really essential to a lot of conversations about our part of the world, our role in our neighbourhood, in our, you know, local part of the world, but I really want to make an Honest Government Ad about what we've, you know, what people have called carbon colonialism too, really, because this is a whole other issue. So, Polly, thanks for taking us on that journey. We've gone deep into some of the shitfuckery with the carbon credits and offsets, and it is a complicated and confusing topic, so if people are thinking, “I'm confused,” so am I. It's, you know, that is part of the problem, as we've discussed, so thanks for breaking it down for us. Is there anything that you want to say that we haven't covered?

Polly

Yeah, I guess I would just say that carbon credits offsets, they're not a licence to pollute. You know, the first thing we should be doing, and Grant King himself, I think, said this in the AFR recently, is that you need to reduce emissions first, so you need to get rid of all the low-hanging fruit. So in Australia, that's fossil fuels. Then, you start to address systems like this. So, so many problems, these issues would be solved if we weren't reliant on gas and coal, and we had a clean energy transition in Australia, where we do have- Where we do need carbon credits and offsets, they have to have integrity, as you mentioned. They have to be real, and additional, and permanent, and they need to be used sparingly. So, I think that maybe that sums it up nicely, you have to reduce the first, at first, and then you use carbon credits with integrity, that are real and additional. 

Giordano

Okay, and if you want that, don't vote for this government, just to make it absolutely fucking clear. Alright, thanks for summing it up, Polly, and if Labor does win again, we'll be watching very carefully to see what this review into the shit buffet is going to be, whether it's actually going to fix the problem, because otherwise we're going to have to make another Honest Government Ad about the Labor party, and we don't want to have to do that, so that's why we made it before the election. 

Alright, thanks so much for joining us, Polly, really appreciate your time, and thank you for all your work that you do at the Australian Institute, and helping to keep people informed about all this stuff. Thank you. 

Polly

Likewise, thank you.

Giordano (Outro)

Well, that brings us to the end of this episode of The Juice Media Podcast. If the coalition is voted out in May, this Honest Government Ad might be the final instalment in our climate shitfuckery series for this government. In it, we've covered the key pillars propping up the coalition's climate and energy policy. Their Kyoto carryover credits, EVs, FFs, carbon capture and storage, conflicts of interest at the CSIRO, clean hydrogen, COP26, net zero by 2050, and more. 

Of course, climate shitfuckery will continue, if not here, certainly around the world, so fear not, we'll continue making these Honest Government Ads about climate and energy policy into the future. 

I want to thank our patrons who supported us in making these Honest Government Ads, but also all of you for the awesome response you've shown to our climate series, which has made all the hard work worthwhile. Thanks to Ellen for helping to produce and edit The Juice Media Podcast, and as always thanks to our patrons who make the podcast and their  Honest Government Ads possible. In particular, our patron producers who support us via highest patron tier of 100 a month. Thank you. If you value our work, you can help us to keep going by signing up to our Patreon, at patreon.com/thejuicemedia. 

You've been listening to The Juice Media Podcast with me, Giordano. I'll catch you very soon for our next Honest Government Ad, and stay tuned for our season 2 finale, as we approach this crucial federal election. Until then, take care.