Fletcher in the News

Professor Kelly Sims Gallagher Talks Implications of China’s New Carbon Emissions Cap

Nature

Kelly Sims Gallagher

China Gets Tough On Carbon

China, responsible for about one-quarter of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions, has ambitious goals to reduce them — but has been unwilling to set absolute targets for fear of slowing economic growth. There are now signs that its position is changing.

On 18 June, the country will launch an emissions-trading scheme in the southern city of Shenzhen, marking its first attempt to cut emissions using market mechanisms. Under the scheme, more than 630 industrial and construction companies will be given quotas for how much carbon dioxide they can emit. Companies that pollute more than they are allowed will have to buy credits from cleaner counterparts that reduce emissions below their quota — thereby creating a price for the greenhouse gas….

…Researchers say that China has reasons beyond climate change to implement emission caps. In the past few years, rampant air pollution has caused increased public resentment and social unrest across the country. “China may not have a choice any more,” says Knut Alfsen, head of research at the Centre for International Climate and Environmental Research in Oslo. “It’s just much better to control total emissions.”

A commitment from China to cap emissions “would breathe new life into climate talks”, adds Alfsen, who is also a member of the China Council for International Cooperation on Environment and Development, an international think tank that works closely with China’s cabinet and the NDRC. At the next climate-change summit, in Paris in 2015, nearly 200 countries will aim to reach a legally binding global agreement on emissions cuts, which would take effect in 2020. Kelly Sims Gallagher, an expert on energy and environmental policy at Tufts University in Medford, Massachusetts, says that an ambitious emissions cap from China “would send a strong political signal to the world” and would make it easier to pass more aggressive climate legislation in the United States, where there is strong political resistance to national climate regulations.

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