New Zealand carbon prices hit $85.40 per unit at the Government's latest Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) auction.
Today's price compares with $76 per unit (NZU) at the last auction in June, and up from around $35/unit in September, 2020.
Spot carbon prices were at just over $87 an NZU before today's auction, which saw all 4.825 million units on offer sold.
The Cost Containment Reserve (CCR) - which is designed to take the heat out of the market when prices get too high - was fully allocated earlier this year.
ANZ agri economist Susan Kilsby said spot prices have trended higher over the past quarter with a significant uplift in the market in late July when the Climate Change Commission recommended the Government should reduce the volume of NZU's auctioned from next year onwards.
This year, the trigger price was set at $70/unit, meaning all of the units in the CCR were allocated in the first two auctions held this year.
The commission has proposed a two-tiered pricing mechanism for next year, with the trigger price for the first tier set at $171 and the second tier set at $214.
The ETS is the primary method for the New Zealand Government to achieve its plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
The scheme puts a price on emissions by charging certain sectors of the economy for the greenhouse gases they emit.
Emission units, or "carbon credits", are traded between participants in the scheme.
An emission unit can either represent one tonne of carbon dioxide, or the equivalent of any other greenhouse gas.
High carbon prices have prompted increased forest planting for carbon credits, resulting in stiff competition for land use in some regions.
Matthew Cowie, director, Climate Change at EY, said the auction results might give participants "pause for thought" as they consider whether to take NZU prices even higher in the secondary market, given the growth in new forests.
A year ago the number of units (NZU) held in private accounts was 138 million but latest figures show that this has grown to 151m units.
"While the government may well decide to reduce future auction volumes below where they have signalled, we need to balance this against the potential additional future supply from the new forests which have been planted and are entering the market.
"So far, the trees are winning and the NZU stockpile keeps on going up," he said in a research note.
The auction's cover ratio shows the relationship between the volume of units bid for, and the volume of units available, at each auction.
The trend in this number has been downwards throughout the year and today's auction saw a cover ratio of just 1.33 times, Cowie said.
A cover ratio of less than one would mean that an auction would fail to clear.
The trend in this cover ratio does not look positive for the last auction of 2022 in December.
"What makes the trends in these volume fundamentals particularly interesting is that they are set against a secondary market price that has continued to rise," Cowie said.
"The trends in these three numbers – stockpile volume, cover ratio and price seem to disagree with each other, so the question for the market is - which is going to blink first?"