Market research says successive Australian governments have overstated greenhouse gas forecasts, in order to make it look like they are doing more to reduce emissions.

A report by energy market analysts at Reputex says Australia has been dramatically overstating its greenhouse gas forecasts for years, and the over-statement is inflating the baseline for the Government’s pledge on greenhouse reductions after 2020.

“The overstatement of national emissions projections has occurred under successive Coalition and Labor governments, which see little political value in updating “business-as-usual” assumptions, instead preferring to keep baselines high and beat expectations,” said the report.

Reputex says it undertook the study in order to update assumptions in the greenhouse projections about economic growth, electricity demand and trade.

The Federal Government has recently lowered the estimated greenhouse emission reductions needed to meet its targets, leading the country to be attacked as an international “free rider” by the former UN secretary general Kofi Annan.

The analysts found Australia will overstate its emissions by more than 200 million tonnes over the next four years – a figure that is more than the annual emissions of the entire electricity sector.

Reputex chief executive Hugh Grossman has told reporters for The Guardian that the overstatement could allow the Abbott government to meet its promise to reduce emissions by 5 per cent by 2020, while actually doing very little.

Handily, any reductions beyond those promised can be carried over to the next “commitment period” – beyond 2020.

“This is also likely to make whatever we promise to do after 2020 much easier to achieve if we are allowed to get away with it”, Grossman said.

“The findings suggest that the international community may be right to question Australia’s emissions ambition should future write-downs be ‘pocketed’ as an accounting benefit, rather than be translated into greater post-2020 ambition,” the report said.

The report is accessible here, for a fee.