Isaac Davison is a NZ Herald political reporter.

New Zealand's 'dirty' businesses revealed

The foundation said these businesses had purchased the most "hot air" carbon credits - which have no environmental value - between 2013 and 2014. Photo / Bloomberg
The foundation said these businesses had purchased the most "hot air" carbon credits - which have no environmental value - between 2013 and 2014. Photo / Bloomberg

The businesses which bought cheap, worthless carbon credits to meet their climate change commitments have been revealed in a new report.

The Morgan Foundation today named a "dirty dozen" which includes petrol companies BP, Chevron and Z Energy, energy companies Genesis and Contact, farming giant Fonterra and others.

The foundation said these businesses had purchased the most "hot air" carbon credits - which have no environmental value - between 2013 and 2014.

At the top of the list was BP Energy Asia, followed by New Zealand Forest Leasing Limited, Z Energy, Wairakei Pastoral Limited and New Zealand Steel Limited.

The foundation's authors cautioned that the data was not perfect, but gave an indication of the businesses which made the greatest use of "dodgy" carbon credits.

They called on the businesses to make amends by purchasing genuine credits, or by lobbying the Government to take action on the issue.

In response, BP said that it was not responsible for domestic climate change policy in New Zealand and it was up to the Government to set the rules for compliance and eligibility.

"The Government must lead by providing a clear, stable and effective policy framework if companies are to provide and use energy competitively."

Z Energy similarly said that it had worked within the rules set by the Government. The company also said that it would not be working in the interests of its customers if it did not meet its climate obligations at the lowest possible cost.

Contact Energy defended its record on climate issues, saying that it had reduced carbon emissions by 47 per cent over the last four years through greater investment in geothermal and by retiring some of its gas-fired generation.

The new report follows an earlier study by the foundation, released in April, which said foreign carbon credits which New Zealand bought to reach its climate targets were "fraudulent".

New Zealand was the world's biggest buyer of Russian and Ukrainian credits which did not represent any reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.

That meant New Zealand had achieved its emissions target on paper but had done little in reality to reduce global emissions.

The Government banned the use of the credits in 2014, but the foundation said the Government still planned to use them to meet its international climate obligations up to 2020 and possibly beyond.

The report's authors said the Government was ultimately responsible for the importation of fraudulent credits.

"Given the price at which they trade, it should be no surprise that rational business bought the dirt cheap and environmentally worthless units."

The Government had exposed these businesses to reputational risk by involving them in a "greenwashing" scheme, they said.

The foundation said the businesses should now either voluntarily cancel an equal sum of genuine carbon credits or lobby the Government to "take ownership of the problem".

It has urged Climate Change Minister Paula Bennett to "dump" the fraudulent credits.

But Bennett said this afternoon that the Government no longer held any of the controversial units.

She said the Government had "learned a lot" about emissions trading and carbon markets since New Zealand set its original emissions target.

"Lessons have been learned and Kyoto has been replaced by the newer and better Paris Agreement, which we signed in April.

"The Government is focused on what we have to do under the Paris Agreement not only to meet our quite ambitious target but also to transition to a lower emissions economy.

"We remain committed to international trading as part of New Zealand meeting its target, and our international negotiation team is working to ensure the new market that develops as a result of Paris is high quality and credible."

- NZ Herald

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