WELLINGTON, Feb. 12 (Xinhua) -- New Zealand's greenhouse gas emissions trading scheme (ETS) is "more or less dead," a forestry expert said Tuesday in the latest attack on the country's environmental credentials.
University of Canterbury Associate Professor Euan Mason said New Zealand had allowed unrestricted imports of credits, including many hot air credits from eastern Europe, becoming "a dumping ground for worthless credits."
"No other country with a carbon trading scheme behaves in this way. They recognize that some credits are doing nothing for the environment and they restrict them," Mason said in a statement.
The country's agricultural sector was given "a free ride," despite contributing about half the total national emissions, and the cap and trade scheme was "irrational," he said.
"Under our scheme when a firm falls below its allocation of free units, it can use the remaining units to offset its remaining emissions and claim that its operations were greenhouse gas neutral, when in fact it has only reduced emissions to the level of the cap."
New Zealand's ETS provided no incentives and the country had failed to plan for the future, which would result in a huge rise in emissions in the 2020s, when forest plantations planted in the 1990s would be harvested.
"We have progressively weakened our ETS so that New Zealand has not changed much in the face of climate change and now, when it is clear that the consequences of our failure are approaching, we have withdrawn from Kyoto," he said.
Large segments of the New Zealand community were in denial, with many people in the farming sector believing that man-made climate change was a hoax.
New Zealand could easily be greenhouse gas neutral by planting 2.5 million hectares of eroding land in trees, Mason said.
"This would make New Zealand the first OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) country to be fully greenhouse gas neutral for between 60 to 100 years."
The New Zealand government has drawn criticism for watering down the requirements for its ETS and for announcing in November last year that it would not sign up to a second commitment period on greenhouse gas emissions under the Kyoto Protocol, opting instead to take an emissions pledge under the United Nations Framework Agreement on Climate Change from Jan. 1.
The controversial move has aligned New Zealand's climate change efforts with a group of developed and developing countries that were collectively responsible for 85 percent of global emissions, including the United States, Japan, China, India, Canada, Brazil and Russia.
According to the United Nations, the major distinction between the Protocol and the Convention is that the Convention just encourages industrialized countries to stabilize emissions, while the Protocol commits them to doing so.