Changing Planet

One Way China is Getting Serious About Climate Change

One catch-22 of climate change has always been that it’s a global problem that must be addressed locally. Global governments won’t agree on action until individual nations have a plan. And individual nations are reluctant to make a plan until the rest of world takes the plunge too. The reason for this stems from the fact that some nations are much bigger polluters than others, which makes the cost on cutting back disproportionally large.

But China, the world’s top emitter of greenhouse gasses, has a plan to use climate change to its economic advantage—and its plan is very, well, American.

China is working on establishing a small-scale cap and trade program that will let the open market scale back greenhouse gas emissions. This will, in the process, allow some savvy innovators to make lots of money. The idea behind cap and trade was originated in the U.S. back in the 90s and worked swimmingly to deal with acid rain. But as Dirk Forrister and Paul Bledsoe pointed out this weekend in the New York Times, the U.S. took a “policy detour” away from the strategy when it was redefined to suggest it would make people’s energy bills rise.

China’s cap and trade program launched earlier this summer in the southern city of Shenzhen. The government will set a limit for emissions and any polluters who don’t reach their limits can sell remaining credits for a market price. The pollution limits will go down over time and the going rate for a credit (for anyone who exceeds the legal polluting limit) will go up, encouraging all polluters to reduce their emissions or pay through the nose to keep polluting.

If it works in Shenzhen, there’s reason to believe China could create a national system in the next few years. China is the world’s biggest emitter, each year putting 7,711 million tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, according to the Energy Information Administration. That’s a big number. But unlike in the U.S. (the world’s second-biggest emitter) ,where climate change is often viewed as an economic drag, Chinese officials are beginning to understand its potential to make their economy grow in new ways.

  • wizard

    solution….if it pollutes…stop…
    paying to pollute is absurd…give a tax incentive…..the less you pollute…..the lower your tax…..the more you pollute ….the lower the remuneration for the company.

  • Annabelle Drumm

    Who sets the credit limits for each company? If they are really high they have plenty to sell (= lots of profit potential) and not much reason to decrease emissions.

  • ChasL

    Dan, the reason China is #1 and we are #2 emitter of green house gas is because they have 4 times the population as us. A typical Chinese person uses much less energy than average American.

  • mememine69

    Isn’t the fact that scientists can say comet hits are real but can’t say climate change is as real as a comet hit, serve as undeniable proof that 28 years of “maybe” clearly shows it “won’t be” a crisis? One would have to WANT this misery to be real as science has NEVER said it is “inevitable”, like their comet hits are. If it were a crisis the scientists would have said so and ended this debate to save their own grand-kids. Climate blame believers are worse than neocons!

  • Sensible

    Isn’t this what Australia is already doing?

  • Hoa Minh Truong

    The most product from China are not long lasting, including the poor quality, contamination and using the banned chemicals. However, China fears the high rate of unemployment that cause the regime collapsed as the historic events from thousand years happened, the end of a dynasty era started by the lost harvest and corruption anywhere.
    The Han’s ambition to be number one super power also leads the industrial race. Actually the cheap laborer and union problem in the western country have encouraged the foreign company, including Taiwanese sought to China for profit, so the pollution has been worsening.
    The China government has no choice, but the prime purpose that keeps the regime obtains, then the pollution will be dispatched. However, Beijing could have some solution with the clean energies as wind mill, solar power or the other natural resources, but the industrial development couldn’t reduce. The pollution is not only effect in China, but the world face the climate change.
    Hoa Minh Truong
    ( author of 3 books: the dark journey, good evening Vietnam & from laborer to author)

  • James Tolbert

    mememine69, scientists have made predictions for you to review. The First Assessment Report was produced by the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 1990. Since 1990, the hottest year recorded since records are available in 1880 occurred. In fact, the 19 hottest years recorded between 1880 and 2012 occurred AFTER the IPCC report in the 22 years between 1990 and 2012! (data available at “The Global Anomalies and Index Data”)

  • Bill Paton

    re: mememine69 August 12, 7:57 pm

    Actually climate scientists are sure. Every major institute that deals with climate change agrees that it is real and it is happening. Scientists are trained to be cautious and won’t say something they don’t know for certain. Dealing with climate change is THE crisis of our generation.

  • Bill Paton

    Actually climate scientists ARE sure. Every major institute that deals with climate change agrees that it is real and it is happening. Scientists are trained to be cautious and won’t say something they don’t know for certain. Dealing with climate change is THE crisis of our generation.

  • Philip Haddad

    The problem is not CO2. It is HEAT. Natural gas will not reduce the heat, it will reduce the CO2 for a given amount of energy recovered ( as compared to coal).

  • Tressie Tennison

    Aw, it was an exceptionally good post. In concept I have to set up writing similar to this moreover

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