Official figures confirm a trend towards using foreign greenhouse gas credits to pay the price of environmental neglect in New Zealand.
Countries such as Ukraine are issuing cheap greenhouse gas credits, in part because they are emitting less greenhouse gas because of declining industrial production.
The credits are being used to offset greenhouse gas emissions from energy, transport and other sectors in this country.
They can also offset emissions liabilities incurred when companies switch from carbon-absorbing forests to profitable but environmentally costly dairy herds.
The latest figures from the Ministry for the Environment show use of some foreign credits quadrupling in a year, while domestic credits are declining.
The ministry is defending the trade, saying a tonne of carbon saved in Ukraine benefits the atmosphere as much as a tonne of carbon from New Zealand.
But Simon Terry of the Sustainability Council says it is a disincentive for New Zealanders to clean up their act.
"By allowing New Zealand emitters to purchase these units from overseas on an unrestricted basis, the incentive to save carbon in New Zealand is reduced because the market price is severely depressed."