China Rolls Out Cap and Trade System

Nature reports that on 18 June, the country will launch an emissions-trading scheme in the southern city of Shenzhen, marking its first attempt to cut emissions using market mechanisms. Another six such cap-and-trade schemes will be rolled out by the end of the year in the cities of Beijing, Tianjin, Shanghai and Chongqing, and the provinces of Guangdong and Hubei. The trial will cover 864 million tonnes of carbon dioxide by 2015 — around 7% of China’s total emissions and about the total amount emitted by Germany each year.

China has committed to cutting its carbon intensity — carbon emissions per unit of gross domestic product — by 40–45% of 2005 levels by 2020, which allows for increases in emissions, although at a slower rate. The initial emissions limits for the regional schemes will be set by applying the carbon-intensity targets to the emissions of individual companies. In 2016, this system will be scaled up nationally, again in line with carbon- intensity targets.

After 2020, this plan is likely to be replaced with an absolute cap that would require a decline in overall emissions covered under the scheme. Such a move will depend on the effectiveness of an array of planned energy policies, researchers say. “It’s not difficult from a technical point of view,” says Xiang Gao, a member of China’s climate-talks delegation and a researcher at China’s National Development and Reform Committee (NDRC), the power­ful ministry responsible for planning the country’s economic and social development. “It’s a matter of political will — which, in turn, will depend on whether the top leadership can be convinced that such a move is best for the country’s economy and social stability,” Gao says.

Will China behave cooperatively in the end even if America behaves selfishly? The article doesn’t speculate. But this at least removes an excuse from the American right.


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