Earlier today I highlighted the New Zealand government's climate change policy of paying its Kyoto bill with dodgy (and now banned) "emissions reduction" units while banking AAU (which will then be used to pay for future targets). So how dodgy are the units we're using? We're literally claiming emissions reductions for burning coal.
As noted earlier, the credits we're turning over include 86.3 million tons of "reductions" from Ukraine - which is noted for being particularly dodgy. The raw data is here [XLS], and project details are in the Ukranian JI Registry. I've extracted this data for the top 20 projects NZ has purchased emissions "reductions" from here. Those projects account for 61.4 million tons of emissions - or roughly a year's worth. And eleven of them claim reductions for "spontaneous ignition of coal waste piles".
What does that mean? The Stockholm Environment Institute working paper referred to in that Guardian article has the details. It means:
extract[ing] coal from coal waste piles, leaving bare rock which does not ignite, and combust[ing] the extracted coal, mostly in power plants. Emission reductions are claimed for the avoidance of waste pile fires, while emissions from combustion of the extracted coal are not counted because it is assumed to substitute coal which would be otherwise obtained from coal mines. For the amount of coal that would otherwise be obtained from coal mines, projects also claim emissions reductions for avoiding upstream emissions from coal mining, including methane emissions associated with deep coal mining and CO2 emissions from electricity consumption by coal minesThe Institute's conclusion: "we rate additionality of this project type as not plausible and overcrediting likely to be significant".
New Zealand is claiming at least 31.2 million tons of "reductions" form this bullshit - half a year's emissions.
But it gets worse. The Stockholm Institute identifies
Note that the government probably didn't buy these credits itself - they were likely turned over by participants in the ETS to pay for their emissions. But the government has chosen to use them to cover our Kyoto emissions, in order to be able to bank its AAU and claim it as a reduction later. And given that it has now banned these types of credit, it did so in full knowledge of how dubious they are. The effect this will have on our international reputation is left as an exercise for the reader.
Correction: Corrected references to "the" Ukraine in this and the following article, as its apparently insulting (like calling us "the colonies").