Reports from China indicate plans to pilot a carbon trading program next month in the southern city of Shenzen, as part of a regional rollout in 2014 and a potential countrywide cap in 2016. Katie Valentine calls the announcement a “bombshell”:
If the cap is adopted, it would be a major step for the world’s top CO2 emitter, which desperately needs to slow its carbon production. China is experiencing the world’s fastest growth in energy production and CO2 emissions, while production and emissions in the U.S. and Europe are flat-lining or decreasing. China uses 47 percent of the world’s coal, a number that’s only going up: in 2011, China’s coal consumption grew by 9 percent, accounting for 87 percent of the world’s 374 million ton increase in coal consumption that year. …
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.”
Claire Thompson agrees that the move “seriously weaken[s] one of the U.S.’s go-to excuses for climate inaction”:
Like sparring siblings, China and the United States — the world’s two biggest carbon dioxide emitters — keep passing the climate-action buck back and forth: “Why should I cut emissions if they don’t have to?” Well, China is either the more mature of the pair, or just majorly sucking up to Mama Earth.