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China Takes Major Step To Cut Pollution

In an effort to drastically cut pollution, the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases—China—will phase in a nationwide carbon emissions trading scheme (ETS), initially focused on the power generation sector and expected to be the world’s biggest emissions trading program.  

China’s top regulatory and policy-making bodies on Tuesday outlined some of the details of the plan, marking the launch of the emission trading scheme, National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) vice chairman Zhang Yong said.

The carbon emission trading will be based in Shanghai and will involve 3 billion tons of carbon dioxide a year and 1,700 power companies, according to the NDRC official. The volume of CO2 accounts for one-third of China’s total greenhouse gas emissions, according to Reuters estimates, and will dwarf the current biggest emissions trading market, the European Union (EU), which is expected to trade around 1.4 billion tons of carbon emissions in 2017.

The Chinese official did not specify the launch date of emissions trading, but according to observers and analysts, mechanisms for a smooth and efficient trade will take at least one year to put into place.   

China has been testing some pilot carbon trading markets, and as of September 2016, seven pilot carbon markets covered nearly 3,000 key enterprises from more than 20 industries and traded 197 million tons of carbon dioxide equivalent, NDRC said in its October 2017 overview of the progress toward a nationwide trading scheme.

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“The world has never before seen a climate program on this scale,” Fred Krupp, President at the U.S. Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), said on Tuesday, commenting on the Chinese ETS. “It is important that the world’s largest emitter should lead on climate, and that is precisely what China is doing by launching its national emissions trading system. China has stepped up its climate leadership dramatically in recent years, and is now increasingly seen as filling the leadership void left by the U.S.”

“This new carbon market will position China not only to achieve its Paris Agreement pledge to peak carbon emissions by around 2030, but to take on a more ambitious target that puts China’s emissions on a downward trajectory well before then,” Krupp said.

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Apart from the emission trading scheme, China has been aggressively pushing for a coal-to-gas switch at millions of households in northern China, which has created natural gas shortages as winter approaches.

By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com

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