Austria is in the market for carbon credits, of the type which the New Zealand Government has been shelling out as subsidies to wind farms and other climate-friendly projects.
Carbon credits are the currency of the Kyoto Protocol.
Governments with obligations under the climate change treaty will have to hold enough of them to square accounts with other governments when Kyoto’s first commitment period ends in 2012.
A representative of the Austrian Government programme, Wolfgang Diernhofer, who is visiting New Zealand, said it had 24 million ($43 million) to spend buying credits this year and the budget would increase to 36 million next year.
In the jargon, they are "joint implementation" deals, which make use of a provision of the protocol which allows a country to meet up to half of any shortfall from its emissions target by buying credits generated by emission-reducing projects in another Kyoto country.
He said prices on this market had been ranging between 4 and 6 a tonne of carbon dioxide equivalent.
Austria’s target under the protocol is to reduce its emissions to 87 per cent of 1990 levels on average in the period 2008 to 2012. Its emissions are about 9 per cent above 1990 levels.
The Austrians are competing with the longer-established Dutch Government programme, Erupt, and with German and Belgian schemes.
Diernhofer said so far increased activity on the buying side of the market had not pushed up prices as it was matched by an increased supply of suitable projects.
New Zealand has awarded 10 million credits in two tender rounds to 39 projects that will reduce the country’s emissions of greenhouse gases.
To qualify for that subsidy, the project’s owners have to show that it would not proceed without the subsidy, payable in carbon credits.
The Austrians as buyers have to be satisfied on the same question.
Diernhofer said they had their own procedures for that. "Still, it’s good to know you are dealing with companies which have already been through a screening process."