China to Launch National Emissions Trading Scheme

Xi and Obama

By MarEx 2015-09-28 20:24:35

President Xi Jinping has announced plans for an emissions trading scheme whilst on a state visit to Washington. The announcement was made as Xi and Barack Obama issued a U.S.-China Joint Presidential Statement on Climate Change. The statement describes a common vision for a new global climate agreement to be concluded in Paris at COP21 this December.  

In the statement, China confirmed that it plans to launch in 2017 a national emission trading system covering power generation, steel, chemicals, cement and other key industrial sectors, as well as implement a “green dispatch” system to favor low-carbon sources in the electric grid. 

China is the world’s top polluter, accounting for around one quarter of the world’s emissions, and the nation has already launched seven pilot trading schemes in locations such as Beijing and Shanghai.

The trading scheme announcement complements the recent finalization of the U.S. Clean Power Plan, which will reduce emissions in the U.S. power sector by 32 percent by 2030.

However, Professor John Mathews of Australia’s Macquarie University says: “It will not be lost on observers that China will be introducing the very kind of scheme that failed to get through the US Congress, passing the House but being defeated in the Senate. How interesting that China the Communist country is introducing the kind of market-based emissions trading scheme that the United States was unable to launch.”

Anita Talberg, Ph.D candidate at the University of Melbourne says the E.U. and the rest of the world will be looking closely at the integrity and robustness of the Chinese design. If China gets it right, and can elicit enough buy-in, it could represent a turning point for climate change, she says.

Both countries are developing new heavy-duty vehicle fuel efficiency standards, to be finalized in 2016 and implemented in 2019.  Both countries are also stepping up their work to phase down super-polluting hydrofluorocarbons. 

Looking beyond their shores, the two countries announced further steps to help accelerate the transition to low-carbon development internationally, including a new climate finance commitment by China of CNY 20 billion ($3.1 billion) to help developing countries combat climate change and new steps to control public support for high carbon activities. The two countries also re-affirmed their commitment to bilateral cooperation, both at the federal and sub-national levels.    

Building a Common Vision for the Paris Agreement

On mitigating the impact of climate change, the two leaders agreed on three elements of a package to strengthen the ambition of the Paris outcome. First, they recognized that the emissions targets and policies that nations have put forward are crucial steps in a longer-range effort to transition to low-carbon economies and agreed that those policies should ramp up over time in the direction of greater ambition. 

Second, they underscored the importance of countries developing and making available mid-century strategies for the transition to low-carbon economies, mindful of the below 2 degrees Celsius global temperature goal. 

Third, they emphasized the need for the low-carbon transformation of the global economy this century.

The two leaders recognized the crucial role of major technological advancement in the transition to low-carbon economies and endorsed significant increases in basic research and development into clean energy technologies in the coming years.