ETS figures show big emitters chasing cheap foreign carbon units
Aug. 3 (BusinessDesk) - New Zealand's major emitters of greenhouse gases took advantage of the plummeting global price of carbon to offset their emissions in 2011, figures from the Ministry for the Environment show.
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 ETS.
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 percent 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 tonne.