As California delays its carbon pollution trading program for a year, China speeds up its embrace of cap-and-trade

First, the bad news:

Facing continued litigation, California officials will delay enforcement of the state’s complex carbon trading program until 2013, state Air Resources Board Chairwoman Mary Nichols announced Wednesday.

The delay in the cap-and-trade program, which was slated to take effect in January, is proposed, she said, because of the “need for all necessary elements to be in place and fully functional.”

Nichols testified that delay would not affect the state ability to return emissions of “planet-warming gases to 1990 levels by 2020.”  It’s worth noting that the cap-and-trade program accounts for only “a fifth of the planned cuts under the state’s 2006 Global Warming Solutions Act.”

Derek Walker [of EDF] praised the delay as a prudent step that “will give the cap-and-trade program its best chance of success…. Cap-and-trade … cuts climate change pollution at the lowest possible cost. By getting this right, California will once again serve as a model that other states and countries can follow.”

On the other side ever warming planet, the world’s biggest emitter of carbon pollution is accelerating its cap-and-trade efforts:

China, the world’s biggest emitter of greenhouse gases, plans to set up a unified national carbon- trading platform by 2015, Beijing News reported, citing Tang Maosong, director of the China Beijing Environmental Exchange….

The nation is taking measures to meet a target of cutting the quantity of carbon it emits per unit of economic output by as much as 45 percent in 2020 from 2005 levels.

China is working on setting up a carbon-trading market and there is no time-frame for the plan, Su Wei, head of climate- change negotiations at the National Development and Reform Commission, said June 21.

It plans to start carbon-trading pilot programs in the cities of Beijing, Chongqing, Shanghai, Tianjin and the provinces of Hubei and Guangdong during the five years through 2015, the China Securities Journal reported May 27, without citing anybody.

A cap-and-trade system puts a price on carbon by setting limits on the quantity of emissions that polluters can produce. Those exceeding the limit must buy credits to offset their emissions, while those that emit less can sell their balance in the carbon market.

Okay, these are only baby steps, and the Chinese goal is hardly better than business as usual, but baby steps still beat wailing in the crib, which is where the United States as a whole remains.

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