Budget 2010: $1b ETS credits, but fishing industry lost at sea

The seafood industry is shaping up as a unlikely training ground for wider business entry into the emissions trading scheme (ETS).

Speaking at the annual industry conference at Te Papa this week, Ministry for the Environment climate change manager Kay Harrison gave the gathered fishers a 30-minute crash course on their ETS entitlements.

Fishing quota owners will get a one-off free allocation of New Zealand emission units (NZEUs), worth one unit for those who catch 411kg, increasing through to 122 units for those catching 100,000kg.

Units can be claimed through a simple three-step process – set up an Emissions Unit Registry account, send off a unit application form, and wait for an electronic transferral of units into the account to be on sold as wished.

Less clear was the link between carbon emissions and fish.

“How does carbon get stored in fish?” a gentleman seated behind NBR muttered, as Ms Harrison explained the role of the forestry sector within the ETS.

Carbon storage, in fact, has nothing to do with fishing emission credits.

A fuel price increase of around 3c per litre is expected as a result of the ETS roll-out on 1 July this year, and government has decided on a one-off NZEU allocation as a form of compensation for quota owners.

This explanation caused additional confusion for one member of the audience.

“So what you’re saying is that fishermen will have increased fuel prices and the quota owner will get the credit?"

Ms Harrison responded that the government had held a debate as to whether emissions units should be allocated to fishing vessel owners or quota owners, and had made a decision in favour of the latter.

The 2010 budget provides just over $1 billion for the allocation of NZEUs to sectors of the NZ economy over the next financial year, and $29m over four years for the development of a national carbon accounting system.

Given that an April survey found 90% of businesses remained unsure of their eligibility for emission credits, this week’s ETS 101 is likely to be the first of many for Ms Harrison and her long-suffering colleagues over the coming months.

Industrial emitters, including power generators and fuel companies, will be required to purchase NZEUs to pay for their emissions from 1 July 2010.


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