As the Trump administration abandons numerous U.S. efforts to rein in emissions of the climate-change gas carbon dioxide over time, another large polluter is pushing ahead with an aggressive plan to slash pollution from energy producers.
China, currently the top carbon emitter and largest consumer of coal in the world, is moving to implement a cap-and-trade program that will establish a nationwide carbon market in the country.
Once in place, it will be the largest such market ever created—even though its scope is initially limited to power plants.
According to The New York Times, China announced on Tuesday its plan to create the market, which would regulate nearly half of all the country's fossil-fuel emissions.
It aims to incentivize the clean operation of power plants by issuing carbon credits at some point the near future, after which it will scale back on the annual quota of credits each following year.
China's coal consumption (via @CountCarbon on Twitter)
The market arrives in response to domestic and international pressures, one being the thick smog covering many Chinese cities that's making its citizenry sick.
Similar carbon markets have been incorporated at the regional level in China, but they've stumbled.
There's no current timeline for China to institute the new carbon market and government is still working out details on how it would work.
Regardless, once the market is in place, it would regulate some 3.3 billion tons of annual carbon emissions, about 1.3 billion more than a similar system in the European Union.
“This is like the Mount Everest of climate policy,” said Nathaniel Keohane, vice president for global climate at the Environmental Defense Fund. “It’s an incredibly ambitious undertaking.”
The plan is the latest move in a series of initiatives undertaken by the Chinese government to tackle climate change and improve its image on the international stage.
The country is quickly becoming the leader in electric vehicles, with a new model seemingly unveiled weekly by one of China's blossoming EV manufacturers.
Groundbreaking at new California Air Resources Board headquarters, Riverside, CA, Oct 2017
Meanwhile, the Trump Administration has signaled it intends to pull the U.S. out of the Paris Agreement climate accord. It has also moved to prop up coal-fired power plants, and reversed course on other initiatives to limit and reduce U.S. carbon output.
The United States might not be left completely in the dust if its individual states have anything to do with it.
California Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill earlier this year that extends his state's cap-and-trade program for 10 years, but it's the only law of its kind currently in force in the United States.
On Tuesday, however, nine Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states finalized new rules to cut power plant pollution by at least two-thirds below 2005 levels by 2030.
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