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August 2, 2021
China is set to launch its long-planned national emissions-trading program—a system that would create the world’s largest carbon market and double the share of global emissions covered under such programs.
The carbon market will help the country lower greenhouse-gas emissions and achieve its goal of reaching peak emissions before 2030 and carbon neutrality, or net zero emissions, by 2060, officials said at a news conference Wednesday. China is the world’s largest carbon emitter. Invitations for launch ceremonies set for Friday were sent out, according to sources familiar with the situation.
The program will initially involve 2,225 companies in the power sector. Those companies are responsible for a seventh of global carbon emissions from fossil-fuel combustion, according to calculations by the International Energy Agency. Under the trading program, emitters such as power plants and factories are given a fixed amount of carbon they are allowed to release a year.
They can in turn buy or sell those allowances. That pushes emitters to think of controlling and reducing emissions in terms of a market. Over the next three to five years, the market is set to expand to seven additional high-emissions industries: petrochemicals, chemicals, building materials, iron and steel, nonferrous metals, paper.
In the biggest climate commitment made by any nation. China has pledged to go carbon neutral by 2060. While it will be challenging for Beijing to achieve its goal, China’s plan to become a green superpower will have ripple effects around the world. Illustration: Crystal Tai. China’s officials have signaled that they plan to add the cement, aluminum and steel sectors to the program next year. The program is expected to adopt stricter caps in the future, although the timing and scope hasn’t been determined, the people say.
Emissions-trading experts expect a slow start for the program and for the first year to be focused on ensuring basic market functionality. “But once it’s all in place, it’ll be one of China’s best mechanisms to incentivize economically sustainable carbon reductions over the long term,” economics consulting firm Trivium China told clients in a note this week.
China’s Ministry of Ecology and Environment will act as the trading platform’s regulator and supervisor. Companies are expected to compile and submit their emissions data to the provincial branches of the ministry, which is charged with verifying the information and ensuring the system works as planned. Failure to comply could result in a maximum fine of $4,600 or a reduction in future allowances.
ARTICLE: PAUL MURDOCH
MANAGER EDITOR: CARSON CHOATE
PHOTO CREDITS: WALL STREET JOURNAL