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China launches world’s largest carbon market: but is it ambitious enough?

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2021-07-21 00:00:04

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China, the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases, has launched its first national emissions-trading scheme. Such carbon-pricing mechanisms exist in around 45 countries already, but China’s scheme, which began trading last week, is the world’s biggest.

It has been plagued by delays, and researchers argue it might not be ambitious enough to enable China to meet its emissions-reduction goals, including a 2030 deadline for peak emissions and a 2060 goal of net-zero emissions.

“We can’t put all the eggs in one basket,” says Hongbo Duan, an economist at the School of Economics and Management at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing. “We need to do more, like develop renewables and also CCS — carbon capture and storage.”

But Duan is hopeful that the scheme will have a far-reaching impact over time. Unlike other national mechanisms, China is using intensity of emissions (the amount of emissions per unit of energy generated) rather than absolute emissions to help reduce its impact on climate. “In the future, I think it may play a formidable role in curbing carbon emissions,” he says.

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