Carbon Cap Proposed, Trading Pilot Unveiled

China, whose 2011 per capita carbon emissions rose to match those of the EU, has proposed to enact a nationwide cap on carbon emissions by 2016. The Independent reports:

The battle against global warming has received a transformational boost after China, the world’s biggest producer of carbon dioxide, proposed to set a cap on its for the first time.

Under the proposal China, which is responsible for a quarter of the world’s carbon emissions, would put a ceiling on greenhouse gas emissions from 2016, in a bid to curb what most scientists agree is the main cause of climate change.

It marks a dramatic change in China’s approach to climate change that experts say will make countries around the world more likely to agree to stringent cuts to their carbon emissions in a co-ordinated effort to tackle global warming.


China now burns nearly as much coal as the rest of the world combined — one factor contributing to the record levels of PM2.5 recorded early this year in Beijing — and has been accused in the past of being uncooperative in the global fight against climate change. Amid the new leadership’s call for “ecological progress,” the Ministry of Finance hinted in February at the imminent imposition of an emission-curbing carbon tax, though the ministry later said that, due to economic concerns, the move would have to wait until after 2013. Details about another measure towards “ecological progress” were recently unveiled: the country’s first pilot carbon-trading program will launch next month in Shenzhen. From The Guardian:

The trading scheme will cover 638 companies responsible for 38% of the city’s total emissions, the Shenzhen branch of the powerful National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) announced on Wednesday. The scheme will eventually expand to include transportation, manufacturing and construction companies.

Shenzhen is one of seven designated areas in which the central government plans to roll out experimental carbon trading programmes before 2014.

[…]Li Yan, Greenpeace east Asia’s climate and energy campaign manager, said that the pilot programmes will inform the central government on how to motivate local authorities to adopt low-carbon policies.


In a report covering both the possible carbon cap and the new pilot program, Think Progress underlines the global and local impact of carbon emission in China, and notes what China’s progress in carbon regulation implies for the U.S., the world’s second top carbon dioxide emitter:

The possibility of a carbon cap in China has been hailed as “potentially transformative” in the fight against climate change, as other major emitters such as the U.S. have historically cited China’s inaction on climate change as reason to avoid implementing meaningful greenhouse gas regulations. Previously, China has shied away from cuts in emissions, saying its main priority was the growth of its economy. In November 2012, the state-owned Xinhua quoted Xie Zhenhua, China’s chief negotiator to the UN climate change talks, as saying it was “unfair and unreasonable to hold China to absolute cuts in emissions at the present stage, when its per capita GDP stands at just 5,000 U.S. dollars.”

But now, China’s advancements in carbon regulation mean the U.S.’s strategy of waiting for China to act on climate change before it does is becoming less and less credible. China has already pledged to cut its carbon intensity, or emissions per unit of GDP, by 17 percent between 2011 and 2015 and 40 to 45 percent by 2020, compared to 2005 levels. In February, the countryannounced it would be implementing a carbon tax, but it later clarified that it would wait until 2013 is over to introduce the program. And the country has invested substantially in renewable energy, spending $65 billion on clean energy projects in 2012, nearly twice as much as the U.S.’s $35.6 billion.