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An emissions return is a report about the greenhouse gases released or captured over time by certain activities covered by the ETS. You must submit emissions returns in certain circumstances, for example, if:
- you are registered in the ETS with post-1989 forest land
- you carry out specific forestry activities covered by ETS rules, such as deforesting pre-1990 forest land.
Your emissions return includes information about how the amount of carbon in your forest land changed over time. The change in carbon shows whether the forest land removed greenhouse gases from the atmosphere, or not. One tonne of carbon dioxide (or greenhouse gases with equivalent warming effect on the atmosphere) equates to 1 New Zealand Unit (NZU or unit).
When you submit an emissions return, it contains your assessment of the number of units you earned or that you must pay (surrender). This is based on:
- the change in carbon calculated for each area of forest land covered by the return
- for post-1989 forest land, the carbon accounting method that applies to each area of land, as the accounting method determines how many units you earn or must pay.
We are responsible for receiving and processing emissions returns for forestry. MPI does this on behalf of the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA).
You must submit emissions returns at certain times, including:
- at the end of all mandatory emissions returns periods (MERPs) for post-1989 forest land in the ETS
- when certain situations change for post-1989 forest land in the ETS. For example, when ownership of post-1989 forest land changes, when a registered forestry right or registered lease expires, is terminated, or is transferred, and when removing land from the ETS
- when deforesting pre-1990 forest land.
Following a change in the rules for the ETS on 1 January 2023, there are other situations when emissions returns are required.
The Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) looks after the New Zealand Emissions Trading Register (NZETR) where the records of all units are held.
Once we receive your emissions return, we will process it and pass the information to the EPA. They will ensure you receive New Zealand Units (NZUs) or will send you instructions to surrender or repay units. "Repaying" units means paying back units that you were not entitled to receive.
If we process your return, it does not mean that it has been accepted as correct. We may correct a return at a later date, if we find an error.
If your return shows that you are entitled to receive units for the land, you will be issued with these units within 20 working days of submitting your emissions return, unless we formally request more information from you about your emissions return.
If your emissions return shows that you must surrender or repay units:
- for post-1989 forest land, you must surrender or repay units within 60 working days of submitting your emissions return
- for deforesting pre-1990 forest land, you must surrender or repay units owing by 31 May in the year the emissions return was submitted.
Stock change accounting and averaging accounting
From 2023 onwards, there will be 2 carbon accounting methods for post-1989 forest land in the ETS. These are:
- stock change accounting
- averaging accounting.
The accounting method that the land is registered under will determine when you receive or surrender units for changes to the amount of carbon in the forest land.