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New Zealand’s major emitters of greenhouse gases took advantage
of the plummeting global price of carbon units to offset their
emissions in 2011, figures from the Ministry for the Environment
The report is the first to cover 12 months of the operation of
the ETS and records the total number of carbon emissions units
purchased and surrendered to the Government to equate with their
obligations to either reduce or offset their emissions under the
Electricity companies, major gas users and transport fuels are
covered by the ETS, although they are only required to account for
one in every two tonnes of carbon emitted, and are not required to
pay above $25 per tonne of carbon.
However, international prices fell to as low as $8 a tonne by
the last year, and have been even lower during 2012, as a glut of
European carbon credits floods the fledgling global market.
As a result, some 73% of all units surrendered in 2011 came from
offshore sources and the 2.1 million forestry-based New Zealand
Units surrendered for the 12 month period was less than half the
5.3 million units surrendered in 2010, when the scheme had only run
for six months.
Likewise, NZU’s derived from other than forestry for the year
totalled 2.3 million, compared with 2.6 million in the six month
period a year earlier.
By comparison, surrenders of Certified Emission Reduction units
(CER’s), derived from foreign carbon offset programmes, clocked in
at 4.2 million, compared with just 133,150 a year earlier. Of
these, 1.2 million units related to industrial gases, some of which
were removed from the ETS in December.
Some 4.3 million units of Emission Reduction Units, another form
of foreign carbon credit, were surrendered, up from none the year
before, and some 3.2 million Removal Units – a foreign credit not
available in 2010 – were also surrendered.
European carbon prices remain at historic lows, despite a plan
announced late July by the European Union that is intended to
bolster the market, and saw NZU prices fall as low as $4.55 per
tonne of carbon earlier this week, and close the week close to $5 a