EBEX21®: Frequently asked questions

Here are answers to frequently asked questions about the EBEX programme and the creation of carbon credits from native forest regeneration

What is EBEX ?

EBEX is a source of carbon credits from regenerating New Zealand native forest. For more than ten years Crown Research Institute, Landcare Research, used its experience in carbon sequestration and the regeneration of native forest to assist landowners to produce Kyoto-compliant credits (Assigned Amount Units or AAUs). Those high-quality credits are available for purchase.

What is the Permanent Forest Sink Initiative (PFIS)?

The Permanent Forest Sink Initiative (PFSI) is operated by the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) and promotes the establishment of permanent forests on previously unforested land. The PFSI is complementary to Forestry in the New Zealand Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) but is permanent due to the need to covenant the land. It is the mechanism by which landowners earn Kyoto-compliant emission units (Assigned Amount Units or AAUs) for carbon sequestered in permanent forests established after 1 January 1990. The PFSI requires landowners to obtain a covenant on their land to guarantee the permanence of the stored carbon.

See http://www.mpi.govt.nz/forestry/funding-programmes/permanent-forest-sink-initiative.aspx for further details.

What is the relationship between EBEX and the Permanent Forest Sink Initiative (PFSI)?

EBEX carbon credits have been created by landowners with support from Landcare Research. The PFSI is the legislative/regulatory mechanism we use to make the EBEX credits Kyoto-compliant.

Do EBEX credits come from tree-planting projects?

No. EBEX deals only with naturally regenerating native forest, not tree-planting projects. All EBEX carbon credits have come from regenerating native bush where there is a seed source from native trees nearby.

Why has EBEX used natural regeneration as opposed to tree planting?

Natural regeneration is significantly more cost-effective for reforesting large areas of land – we've measured up to 60,000 tree stems per hectare in naturally regenerating forests!  We believe that forest restoration through planting is a good idea but, at present, little accurate information is available on how much carbon is stored per hectare of restoration or revegetation planting, or how much leakage of carbon occurs as a result of tree planting and maintenance. We have much better data on the amount of carbon stored long term in naturally regenerated stands. Further, the cost of planting trees is not currently recovered by revenue from carbon credits alone. Promoting natural regeneration is therefore the ideal vehicle to achieve new forests of large areas in suitable locations.

How much carbon dioxide is sequestered by one tree?

The amount of CO2 sequestered by a single tree varies with geographical location, soil type, rainfall, the species of tree and its age, size, permanence and health. The estimation of the amount of CO2 sequestered by individual trees is an inexact science requiring many assumptions. The Advertising Standards Authority in the UK ruled that there was no scientific basis for a claim by a company that the number of trees they had planted would sequester CO2 equivalent to the company’s greenhouse gas emissions. For those reasons EBEX focuses on sequestration by hectares of regenerating forest in the current year rather than individual tree sequestration over its lifespan.

How much carbon dioxide is sequestered by a hectare of regenerating native forest?
This depends on a range of variables including climate, geography, plant species already present, stage of current reversion and proximity to a seed source. To get a more accurate estimate of rate of reversion and consequent sequestration rate (how quickly carbon is stored), vegetation measurements are made on the regenerating land. MPI requires a measurement on all landholdings over 100 ha in size.

Do trees increase in their capacity to sequester carbon dioxide as the forest grows?

Generally, yes. The rate of sequestration changes as a forest develops. Carbon sequestration is slow during the initial establishment phase when trees are small and as pasture is converted to woody shrublands. Most woody shrubs, such as manuka, kanuka and tauhinu, then grow rapidly and absorb increasing amounts of CO2 before being replaced by other longer-lived slower-growing species. These slow-growing species tend to be bigger and therefore they absorb even more carbon, but the annual rate of sequestration is less than that of the more rapidly growing shrub species. It is possible for sequestration to continue for a number of centuries.

Do wetlands sequester carbon?

Provided the wetland is in healthy condition and the muds are aerobic, the vegetation will absorb CO2. However, small herbaceous plants sequester much smaller amounts of CO2 compared with large trees. Wetlands are making a positive contribution to biodiversity but are not included in EBEX. If the muds are anaerobic it is likely that methane is being produced, which therefore contributes greenhouse gas emissions to the atmosphere!

What is the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS)?

The Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) is the price-based mechanism established by the New Zealand Parliament to:

  • Reduce net greenhouse gas emissions below business-as-usual levels
  • Comply with our international obligations, including our Kyoto Protocol obligations

The comprehensive scheme is a key part of overall climate change policy and is expected to one day involve all significant greenhouse gases and all sectors including forestry, agriculture, industry, energy, waste and liquid fossil fuels.

Forestry was the first sector to enter the ETS.

See http://www.mpi.govt.nz/forestry/forestry-in-the-ets for further details.

Why does EBEX use the PFSI instead of the ETS?

EBEX credits need to meet international requirements – this gives them integrity and saleability. The PFSI allows us to do this more easily than the ETS. The PFSI requires a covenant to ensure that the carbon is permanently removed from the atmosphere. The type of credits generated under the PFSI are Assigned Amount Units or AAUs, which are Kyoto-compliant and therefore recognised internationally.

What is the New Zealand Emission Units Register (NZEUR)?

This is New Zealand's national registry to manage the accounting, reporting and reconciliation of emissions unit holdings and transactions as part of the New Zealand Emissions Trading Scheme and to meet New Zealand's commitment and obligations under the Kyoto Protocol.
See www.eur.govt.nz/ for further details.

What is the Kyoto Protocol?

The Kyoto Protocol is a protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC or FCCC), an international environmental treaty with the goal of achieving ‘stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system.’

What will happen to the ETS, PFSI and Kyoto Protocol from 2013?

Whilst New Zealand has officially withdrawn from the second commitment period (starting 2013) under the Kyoto Protocol, it is expected that we will continue to meet our obligations under the UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change).  As yet, the indications are that the New Zealand ETS will continue.  A new ‘voluntary’ market for units from regenerating indigenous forest may well evolve. 


Early stages of natural regeneration from pasture. Click to enlarge.
Early stages of natural regeneration from pasture