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NZ participating in climate fraud

Written By: - Date published: 8:15 am, January 23rd, 2016 - 52 comments
Categories: accountability, capitalism, climate change, global warming - Tags: , , , ,

This week has seen a lot of coverage of the news that 2015 has been confirmed as by far the hottest year on record. A post here at The Standard generated plenty of discussion (a lot of it driven by a couple of persistent climate change deniers peddling the usual lies).

In the context of the news that we are on course to wreck the environment and ecosystems that sustain us I think it is timely to revisit an article that appeared on December 26th in the Dom Post. It is much too important to be left languishing in the Christmas news vacuum. Geoff Simmons (an economist with the Morgan Foundation) writes:

Dealing with criminals in climate fraud

The Government’s plan for meeting our Kyoto Protocol commitment and 2020 emissions reduction target was released this month. It reveals a shocking truth: New Zealand has been a willing participant in a wholesale climate fraud. We’ve been dealing with criminals and fraudsters in order to meet our international obligations.

Carbon trading is a fine idea, but it only works if the credits we buy actually represent a true emissions reduction somewhere else. The sad truth is that the foreign credits New Zealand has gorged on up until now have produced little to no climate benefit.

New Zealand’s main vice has been a particular type of carbon credit called the Emissions Reduction Unit (ERU). … Over 90 per cent of ERUs have come out of Russia and Ukraine, and under Kyoto they were allowed to authorise their own projects. No surprise that when they were externally audited this year, 85 per cent of the units didn’t stand up to scrutiny. They are essentially worthless bits of paper. … One UN official went as far as to call it organised crime.

In 2012 the market got flooded with ERUs. The EU retaliated, restricting the use of these ‘offsets’ in their Emissions Trading Scheme. The price went through the floor – from over $20 per tonne in early 2011 to around 10c per tonne in 2013. There was one place the crooks could still ditch their fraudulent credits though: clean, green, ethical New Zealand. Our government kept allowing their unlimited use in our ETS right up until we got chucked out of the international trading system in 2015 for not signing up to Kyoto II.

We have been the biggest abuser of fraudulent carbon credits. Someone should be answerable as an accessory to the fraud. We have spent more than $100m willingly buying these cheating credits that have no benefit for the climate. … The politicians have known damn well what they’ve been doing. …

There’s plenty more – go read the original piece in full. The whole fraudulent system is, incidentally, a perfect example of what is wrong with “carbon credits” and “carbon trading”. Better than nothing, but nowhere near as direct and effective as a carbon tax (polluter pays).

I would like to be able to say that I find NZ’s participation in this fraud unbelievable – but I don’t. It is all too believable that our current government, the dirtiest in NZ’s history, is happy to play dirty on climate change. Things won’t fall apart in the next electoral cycle, so what do they care.


As a final note, while the Morgan article is good and pulls no punches, all credit to I/S at No Right Turn who was (as far as I am aware) the first to break this story in NZ back in December. We reprinted his posts here.

52 comments on “NZ participating in climate fraud ”

  1. Paul 1

    This post could easily be derailed by a couple of deniers.
    Please think carefully before you reply to them.

  2. RedLogix 2

    Follow the money. Almost certainly some of it has stuck to some very interesting fingers.

  3. Macro 3

    I’ve recently been watching a Danish TV series called “Borgen” about a Danish Prime Minister, and each episode features a crisis which puts the Government under the spotlight, the role of spin doctors and the investigations by the media. I just wonder how this fraud and effectively laundering of Carbon Credits by NZ, and the complicity of the NZ Govt in this, would be portrayed. It would be enough to bring down the Government in Denmark, I’m sure. (In one episode the PM’s husband leaves her – she has told him he must leave the job he has just accepted because her Govt has just agreed to buy new war planes; part of which is to be manufactured by the company for which he is now CEO.)
    Of course it would never happen here our media are too fast asleep, and just too compliant with Govt to ever ask any difficult questions. This story has been around for about a month now – have we heard anything about it? No! Just ask the sheeple – they will know about Max’s latest episode – but major money laundering, and fraud on an international scale??

    • Colonial Viper 3.1

      A good little series…I found Seasons 1 and 2 the best…

      • Macro 3.1.1

        Yes – but its the calling the Govt to account that is for me the main point. The Government has in effect taken millions of “Carbon Credits” which have been shown to have no worth and by creative accounting turned them into Credits for real Carbon emissions in NZ. This action is little less than fraud – and it is our “government” that has done it! Furthermore they plan to use these “credits”, which they still have in hand, to meet our emission targets for the next couple of years!
        It is an outright scandal and disgrace. But where is our media? Out to lunch and watching the cricket.

  4. BM 4

    Carbon credits are a complete joke.

    They’re nothing more than a hair shirt for white liberals.

    • b waghorn 4.1

      Like a lot of great ideas the inventors of carbon credits didn’t factor in that greedy deceitful shit bags would scam the system.
      Any future carbon tax has to be in house , any money collected locally must be ring fenced and spent locally .

    • RedLogix 4.2

      Carbon trading schemes were always regarded as a shonky political compromise, because a straight-forward carbon tax had no bi-partisan support from the right.

      It was always the right that wanted trading schemes because they looked like a ‘market in action’ and thus had ideological appeal. But everyone on the left warned they would be gamed, and eventually criminally de-frauded.

      • The Chairman 4.2.1

        Yet, isn’t carbon trading still Labour’s preferred option?

        • RedLogix 4.2.1.1

          And are there not a lot of people who think Labour is a right wing party, albeit one with much poorer PR and way less funding, and therefore refuse to vote for it?

          • The Chairman 4.2.1.1.1

            Another done deal by the right within (Labour).

          • red-blooded 4.2.1.1.2

            Let’s remember that Labour tried to impose a carbon tax, and were unable to get it past NZ First, National etc. In the end, they compromised with an emissions trading scheme. It had a lot more guts than the current, eviscerated scheme (charges were higher and farmers would have been paying for a long time by now under Labour), although it would probably still have been open to this kind of manipulation if unethical people were at the helm and making decisions.

            Frankly, I don’t see much difference between the situation faced by Labour here, and their eventual compromise with the ETS and Al Gore’s situation and eventual compromise, as described by you below, RedLogix. Somehow his decision was OK but Labour’s made it a right wing party that we should refuse to vote for???

            Labour isn’t the perfect, ideologically pure party of the left; it has to be pragmatic and make compromises sometimes. If it didn’t we would never get even a vaguely left-leaning government. I didn’t notice Mana hovering up too many votes in the last few elections…

            • RedLogix 4.2.1.1.2.1

              Yeah I take your point rb.

              The take home has to be though, if it were not for the ideological obduracy of the right wing for the past 25 years or so on this matter … none of these flawed compromises would have been necessary.

              Compromise works where there is a bi-partisan will to get a result everyone can live with … but the right NEVER believed in this issue and still refuse to commit to any effective action. All they saw with carbon trading schemes was a golden opportunity to water down, game and defraud them.

              And because the current Labour Party leadership is so right wing itself, they’re reduced to silent impotence because it was their scheme which has been so badly butchered.

              • BM

                I disagree, I think it was more a baby boomer issue caused by the ‘I win, you lose’ ‘must crush your opponent’, approach to life they all seemed to have.

                • RedLogix

                  So you are arguing that it had nothing to do with politics? That National would have happily accepted a bi-partisan position on a carbon tax back in the early 2000’s.?

                  Like back when Key said this in the House:

                  ‘ Key in mid – 2005, when speaking in the House about the Climate Change Response Amendment Bill. said : “The impact of the Kyoto Protocol, even if one believes in global warming—and I am somewhat suspicious of it—is that we will see billions and billions of dollars poured into fixing something that we are not even sure is a problem. Even if it is a problem, it will be delayed for about 6 years. Then it will hit the world in 2096 instead of 2102, or something like that. It will not work,” explained Key.

                  Key is expressing two things here; one is a perfectly sensible skepticism about how effective trading schemes like Kyoto might be , and the other is a carefully expressed disdain for the notion of global warming at all. Given Key’s trader background I’d suggest he knew exactly what he was talking about when it came to the former matter, but his track record on science is a lot shakier.

                  And given the blatant watering down of the Labour scheme that Key’s government has engaged in since coming to power, clearly their motives have changed little. Looked at from his perspective, Key never believed in the issue and flat out rejected a carbon tax, but given his authentic expertise in global markets, he knew damn well back then that a carbon trading scheme was never going to work either.

                  • Murray Simmonds

                    Excellent and informative and insightful comment, thank you RedLogix.

                    Pretty much sums up the whole argument!

              • red-blooded

                But it’s NOT their scheme anymore.The Labour scheme was quite nuanced; there were NZ trading units as well as international ones, units were capped in numbers (thus capping the allowable level of emissions), there was an allocation of free units as an encouragement for carbon-sink activities like forestry and planting trees on agricultural land as a way of offsetting emissions (but the allocation of these units was a short-term measure), sectors were to be phased into the scheme in a relatively short time-frame (farming, the last one, would have been in by 2013), the allocation of units was linked to 2005 emissions levels. The goal was to reduce emissions.

                National have had two goes at butchering this. First, in 2009, they dumped the aim to reduce emissions, got rid of the cap on numbers of units (meaning that there’s no constraint on rising emissions), neutered the NZ-based units by not requiring any balance between NZ and international units and by deciding to keep on gifting them and then to provide an unlimited number of NZ based units at a fixed price during “the transition period”, delayed bringing in various sectors (including their farming buddies)… Wikipedia notes that “as there is no limit on the volume of international emissions units (CERs and ERUs) that may be imported, there is no cap or limit on the volume of emissions permitted in New Zealand provided that emissions units are imported into the country and surrendered. In that respect, the NZ ETS is unlike most other emissions trading schemes,[62]” Our friends in the National Party call it a “flexible cap”. Typical Key-speak.

                They watered it down even further in 2012, putting off the deadline for agriculture to be counted in indefinitely.

                It should be noted that Labour spoke out strongly against the watering down on the scheme, as did the Greens.

                The impact was predictable, including the fact that NZ businesses moved swiftly away from trading in NZ units and into buying up the much-cheaper and unlimited overseas units. In 2010, international units made up less than 2% of the NZ market, in 2011 it was 72%, in 2012 it rose to 99.5%. Not surprisingly, the prices for NZ units have also been dragged down by the low prices of the international units (no wonder they were so low, it turns out lots of them didn’t actually represent any carbon-offsetting activity!). That’s the beauty of “the market”, of course… It’s also a betrayal of the aims of the original (Labour) bill, which aimed to disencourage high-emissions activities (or at least to encourage them to find more sustainable ways of operating) by making them pay a reasonable cost for the damage they do to our shared environment. It also aimed to reward and encourage carbon-sink activities. Neither aim is part of the current government’s thinking and their changes to the original design of the ETS have made it a sick parody of itself.

                While it can’t be guaranteed that the original Act would have substantially changed the practices of emitters in the short term, it did at least have some reasonable structures for encouraging this, and the kind of shonky dealing that’s now been exposed would have been much less likely. They’ve happened because the parametres have been changed so dramatically by people who have no interest in anything but playing “the market” (and dodging the real, long-term costs of their decisions and their supporters’ activities).

                https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Zealand_Emissions_Trading_Scheme#Labour.27s_emissions_trading_scheme

          • McFlock 4.2.1.1.3

            Depends on your definition of “a lot”, I guess.

            There are a few political junkies who are pissy that Labour isn’t as far left as they personally are (or believethemselves to be, anyway).

            But whether the general alienation from the political system as evidenced by the non-vote is because “Labour is a right wing party”, I don’t think so. I think much of it has to do with politics and political coverage entrenching the There Is No Alternative attitude that all politicians are self-serving rorting scum who would kill their own parents to be called “honourable” and get post-parliamentary sinecures. Rather than restricting that assessment merely to much of the current national party leadership…

            • RedLogix 4.2.1.1.3.1

              That expresses it more accurately McF.

              I was probably being unfair to a lot of Labour party people at a personal level. Most of them will privately hold left-wing views, but when they go to work the need to placate the Establishment sees them suddenly change shape and colour.

              And is why so many notionally left wing professional commentariat are so hostile towards figures like Corbyn and Sanders who actually don’t give a shit about the ‘honourable’, the sinecures and visits from the corporate lobbyists.

              And at the same time why so many ordinary people who normally hold politicians in complete contempt, are coming out of the woodwork to support them.

              • McFlock

                But the other thing that the commentariat see in Corbyn and Sanders are people who probably won’t be in a position to change anything.

                I think that the odds are improving, but with Sanders as president the teabaggers in congress and senate will shut the government down (even more so than with Obama) and Corbyn is fighting an MMP fight in an FPP system.

                Remember, the people some folk like to call “beltway politicians” are probably not all self-centered careerists: some are trying to balance the desire to change things against being in a position to change things. They might see popularists as satisfying the extreme left (relative to each political system) but sacrificing the power to actually do anything if/when elected.

                There are other issues in the different parties and countries, from being tactically inferior in advertising and campaigning through to maybe having a few natural tories who mistook the compromises of the leftish party as being as far left as the party wanted to go, so genunely do ideologically battle the Corbyn/Sanders folks.

                I would like both Corbyn and Sanders to be elected when their elections come, but I also remember “Hope and Change”. Maybe Obama was a sellout, but maybe the idealism he represented got bogged down by the reality of what is actually possible.

      • BM 4.2.2

        From what I’ve read it was Mr Environmentalist himself, Al Gore who fucked the carbon credit scheme.

        http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2007/dec/17/comment.world

        • RedLogix 4.2.2.1

          Given how much further to the right US politics are to the rest of the western world, is it any surprise that a carbon TAX would never get onto their radar?

          In the neo-liberal world taxes only ever go down, and new ones are verbotten.

          And like so many right wingers you typically don’t read your sources very closely:

          Although Gore does a better job of governing now he is out of office, he was no George Bush. He wanted a strong, binding and meaningful protocol, but American politics had made it impossible. In July 1997, the Senate had voted 95-0 to sink any treaty which failed to treat developing countries in the same way as it treated the rich ones.

          Though they knew this was impossible for developing countries to accept, all the Democrats lined up with all the Republicans. The Clinton administration had proposed a compromise: instead of binding commitments for the developing nations, Gore would demand emissions trading.

          But even when he succeeded, he announced that “we will not submit this agreement for ratification [in the Senate] until key developing nations participate”. Clinton could thus avoid an unwinnable war.

  5. Murray Simmonds 5

    I was one of the fools who planted several thousand trees on a small lifestyle block with a view to getting “at least something of a return” with respect to carbon credits) on the work involved (hobbling around in the depths of winter in mud-caked gumboots, or digging holes in snow caked ground or digging holes in frosted stoney “soil” that was almost as hard as concrete, until eventually creeping arthritis put an end to my endeavours.)

    For a while, it looked like quite a reasonable return on my social investment (it was never intended as a capital investment. I foolishly thought the carbon credits might make the effort worthwhile in the long run).

    Than, along came the Key government.

    The rest is history – at least up until now . . . . the trees are still in the ground.

    Anyone interested in a change of government??

    • red-blooded 5.1

      +1!

    • Macro 5.2

      Me too.
      I returned some land to wetlands as well.
      But at least you and I have the knowledge that we have done something positive to help address the continual destruction of the Planet, and our eco systems. Fortunately I am not beset with arthritis and can continue in a small way with a wetland project on the banks of the Waihou and helping care for the oldest arboretum in NZ the Hall Reserve 400 m from my home.

    • BM 5.3

      Give these guys a call

      http://www.carbonzero.co.nz/

      They go around and access the carbon footprint of businesses in NZ, then companies buy credits through them to offset their emissions.

      According to some one who was part of the auditing process the business gets the option of where they want to buy their credits, either locally or globally.

      Maybe you could be a local carbon credit supplier.

  6. Matthew Hooton 6

    ERUs were created by the Kyoto Protocol and recognised as legitimate by the UN. If it turns out some or most are dodgy, that is the fault of the UN, not those who purchased them in good faith.

    • Stuart Munro 6.1

      Though the UN may have created a flawed process the bad faith probably did not originate with them, but with the creators of the phony credits.

      And with the National government – for whom mala fide is an operating principle.

      • acrophobic 6.1.1

        That’s partly true, of course, but the designers of the scheme itself should have anticipated and closed these loopholes?.

        • Stuart Munro 6.1.1.1

          No administrator can close every loophole. In Asia however, corporates who look too hard for them may simply be shut down by the state. Hence the US investment invasion of Japan soon ran out of steam, and Lonestar’s predatory career in Korea was swiftly curtailed.

          The problem in NZ is that this government are the white collar crims. Lobbyists are superfluous, the poachers have their own gamekeeper. Miserable for NZ citizens and disasterous for the economy and the environment – but that’s the Gnats – taking NZ backward since they were formed.

          • acrophobic 6.1.1.1.1

            I agree not every loophole can be closed, but surely if this alleged fraud is so blatant, it should have been anticipated.

            • Stuart Munro 6.1.1.1.1.1

              It may be that the UN expected countries to police their own industries competently – absurd in the case of the Gnats of course, but many countries have done rather better.

    • Macro 6.2

      This government knows that these credits were worthless – yet they still propose to use them to offset our real carbon emissions. Like knowingly using counterfeit money to buy goods.

      • Matthew Hooton 6.2.1

        It’s not the government that has been buying them

        • weka 6.2.1.1

          Are you saying that the government of the day (whoever that is) has zero responsibility in this?

        • Macro 6.2.1.2

          But it is the government that allows them to be used , and is complicit in this fraud – they account for these fraudulent credits in the annual tally of Carbon usage in NZ. Because this is the way NZ plans to meet its Paris Commitment over the next few years with the use of fraudulent carbon credits. These credits are still in the system, laundered admittedly – but still there.

          • Poission 6.2.1.2.1

            And your simple plan to resolve the issues (and constrain the problem)?

            • Macro 6.2.1.2.1.1

              Simple.
              Move from an ETS to a carbon tax immediately with a solid price on Carbon.
              The income from the carbon tax to be used solely for initiatives to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels.
              NZ’s greatest increase in Carbon emissions is not actually from agriculture, but from transport. Our roads are increasingly becoming congested with freight trucks. Our government can think of no other way of solving this than to build more roads.
              Carbon taxes actually work where they have been implemented and given time to work.
              BC is a prime example where a right wing provincial govt has implemented a carbon tax and the result has been that BC is the only province in Canada that has had a reduction in Carbon emissions, and is still the province with the best performing economy.

              • b waghorn

                Hear hear !!

              • acrophobic

                The BC example is an excellent one, most of all because it is revenue neutral. I’m not sure I trust future politicians (particularly left wing) not to pocket the proceeds.

              • Matthew Hooton

                This is a much more sensible idea than those suggesting the NZ govt introduce a new global carbon credit auditing system over and above that of the UN. If we have a carbon trading system that we want to be globally integrated, we have to follow UN rules (although I think the govt has now banned the use of some of the dubious “Russian hot air” credits in the NZ ETS).

              • Andre

                Economists might not see much difference between an emissions trading scheme and a carbon tax, but psychologically there’s a huge difference.

                Emissions trading implies a right to pollute.

                A carbon tax sends the clear message that if you wish to dump your waste on everybody else, you have to pay for it.

        • Psycho Milt 6.2.1.3

          It’s not the government that has been buying them

          That’s weaselry. The government has signed up to drastic cutbacks in carbon emissions, with the full intention of doing nothing to reduce carbon emissions but instead to use purchase of these fraudulent carbon credits to claim that it met its obligations. It’s a full, knowing participant in the fraud.

    • Murray Simmonds 6.3

      Yep Matthew, and Key and Co. endorsed it. So ??????

      • Matthew Hooton 6.3.1

        No, they moved in 2012 to ban trade in these credits. See http://beehive.govt.nz/release/restrictions-proposed-ets-units

        • postcarbon 6.3.1.1

          The gov’t ” intended to commence consultation” on whether to ban them and that was three years ago. Can’t you point to evidence that they have banned them. This is typical of their endless prevarication.

          • One Anonymous Bloke 6.3.1.1.1

            Put it this way: the December 2013 to withdraw from Kyoto came into effect on June 1st last year.

            The National Party’s fraud was exposed in September.

            They’ve had time to implement a ban in the interim? Perhaps Matthew Hooton believes that.

            From the link, it looks a lot more like they’re simply letting the Kyoto process dictate the schedule.

    • emergency mike 6.4

      “The EU got wind of the games being played years back and started to clamp down on the use of these credits. In response, Russian and Ukrainian companies doubled down, churning out as many fraudulent credits as they could before the EU shut them out.

      One UN official went as far as to call it organised crime. In 2012 the market got flooded with ERUs. The EU retaliated, restricting the use of these ‘offsets’ in their Emissions Trading Scheme. The price went through the floor – from over $20 per tonne in early 2011 to around 10c per tonne in 2013. There was one place the crooks could still ditch their fraudulent credits though: clean, green, ethical New Zealand. Our government kept allowing their unlimited use in our ETS right up until we got chucked out of the international trading system in 2015 for not signing up to Kyoto II.”

      Good faith you say? Typical libertarian, happy to throw ‘personal responsibility’ out the window in spite of the obvious as long as there is a rubber stamp that can be blamed instead.

  7. Steve Withers 7

    The National government acting corruptly and cheating is exactly what I would expect them to do. With their standing in the polls, they don’t care who knows…..because their voters are – defacto – just as corrupt as they are…..or they wouldn’t stand for it.

    Of course, United Future, ACT and the Maori Party are also tainted by this fraud. They let it happen.

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