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Carbon a new commodity but not rocket science

Published: 9:43AM Wednesday December 02, 2009 Source: ONE News

New Zealand's amended emissions trading system was passed into law last week, amid much political debate.

But, what does it mean for the New Zealand firms who may in the future have to offset emissions with carbon credits? 

OM Financial's carbon trader Nigel Brunel likens the scheme to a tax regime, with big emitters having to account for their carbon footprint on an annual basis and buy carbon credits to offset that.

New Zealand will create much of its carbon credits by growing trees, which act as carbon sinks, with the credits generated able to be sold on to emitters.

"People who grow trees can have those trees measured through a process with the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, and every year they can get given carbon credits for the amount of carbon that has been sequestered in the forest," he says.

The other way New Zealand can create carbon credits is by getting involved in renewable energy projects in developing countries, such as building a wind farm. The carbon credits are signed off by the United Nations and are then on-sold to buyers.

Brunel says there are a lot of moving parts to carbon trading, but he says carbon should be thought of like any other commodity.

He says the price of carbon reflects emissions and global growth - more growth means more emissions and therefore raises the price of carbon.

The price is also affected by things such as oil, weather and electricity prices.

"For example, if the price of coal falls, electricity generators may switch to coal if it's cheaper, but then the price of carbon will go up because they have more emissions. It's like any market, it has certain dynamics that does affect its price," says Brunel.

And, like other commodities, there will also be speculators.

"Speculators are part of every market, and an important part of every market, because they provide liquidity, and there will be no difference with carbon".

The government expects to include all sectors of the economy and all greenhouse gases in the emissions trading scheme by 2015.