Bombshell: China May Be Close To Implementing A Cap On Carbon Pollution

Credit: Associated Press

China is taking steps to tackle its huge carbon output. Today, the country announced the details of its first carbon trading program, which will begin in the city of Shenzhen next month. The southern city is one of seven cities and provinces, including Beijing, which will take part in the pilot program, set to be completely implemented by 2014.

And according to one local news source, China could implement an absolute, nation-wide cap on its carbon emissions by 2016. China’s 21st Century Business Herald reported this week that the country’s State Council still needs to approve the carbon cap proposal submitted by the National Development and Reform Commission, a government entity that controls much of the Chinese economy. The proposal, which the State Council is reportedly likely to support, would ensure China’s emissions would not increase past the country’s target cap, regardless of economic growth — though it’s still unclear what that cap would be. The paper reported that the NDRC also predicts China’s greenhouse gas emissions will peak in 2025, rather than 2030, as earlier predictions stated.

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 country’s emissions aren’t just a major contributor to climate change worldwide — they’re causing serious local problems as well. In Beijing, pollution has reached record levels, topping 775 in January — a number that breaks the Environmental Protection Agency’s air quality scale of 0 to 500. The air pollution levels are so high that Beijing schools are building air-purified domes over playgrounds so that children can play outside, and many expatriates are withdrawing their applications from Beijing jobs or choosing to leave the country altogether.

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.”

But now, China’s advancements in carbon regulation mean the U.S.’s strategy of waiting for China to act on climate change before it does is becoming less and less credible. China has already pledged to cut its carbon intensity, or emissions per unit of GDP, by 17 percent between 2011 and 2015 and 40 to 45 percent by 2020, compared to 2005 levels. In February, the country announced it would be implementing a carbon tax, but it later clarified that it would wait until 2013 is over to introduce the program. And the country has invested substantially in renewable energy, spending $65 billion on clean energy projects in 2012, nearly twice as much as the U.S.’s $35.6 billion.

21 Responses to Bombshell: China May Be Close To Implementing A Cap On Carbon Pollution

  1. fj says:

    Not anywhere near ambitious enough and an indication on how clueless they are about how bad things are.

  2. JJM says:

    Thank heavens!!

  3. This is good news,Americans can no longer use the excuse”why aren’t the chinese doing something”time for the USA to step up.great job China.

  4. Merrelyn Emery says:

    This has been known for some time now and certainly has the power to stir up the murky dynamics behind the international negotiations. Should be very interesting, ME

  5. Merrelyn Emery says:

    I would have judged the subject to be deserving of just a little more thought fj, ME

  6. fj says:

    By 2020 nearly six trillion dollars per year will be required to battle climate (via World Resources Institute).

    To repeat this is not close.

    Climate changes are rapidly accelerating and in response China will likely accelerate the level of urgency in a very short time.

  7. fj says:


    You smoke and have serious emphysema and lung cancer.

    Do you really think that a doctor treating you will prescribe cutting down on smoking fifty percent by 2020?

  8. BobbyL says:

    In the US there already is a carbon cap and trade program in 10 states that probably account for about one-fourth of the US population. Glad to see China is moving in this direction although they need to join the world in a legally binding agreement to reduce emissions as does the US. Any voluntary target that China sets is likely to be woefully inadequate.

  9. Robert In New Orleans says:

    In my opinion I think the Chinese government’s position on carbon control is evolving because of the pressure from the population to do something about the really horrible air pollution problems that they are currently experiencing.

  10. Mossy says:

    I hate to say this, but I’m remembering the documentary “Dimming the Sun,” where pollution limited warming during the 60’s and 70’s. So when China cleans up it’s act, expect temps to jump quickly.

  11. Merrelyn Emery says:

    And any voluntary target the USA sets is likely to be…? ME

  12. BobbyL says:

    And any voluntary target set by any country is likely to be inadequate.

  13. In the UK we were burning coal in huge amounts and then we switched to gas. Did we do it to cut down on CO2 or to give ourselves clean air and cities? It was a good move but nothing we have done since then leads me to believe there is anything being done about climate change. Its business as usual.

  14. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    And it will coincide with harsh regression to a state of climate denial and extreme anti-environmental fanaticism in the Anglosphere states. The outlines of a new global order are coming into view, which makes this an incredibly dangerous period as the European powers wane and the rest of the world seek their own salvation.

  15. Mulga Mumblebrain says:


  16. Merrelyn Emery says:

    Yep, ME

  17. Merrelyn Emery says:

    Would you like more rope? ME

  18. BillD says:

    The other main point is that Chinese in government, business and academia accept science and do not believe in anti-science conspiracies that are so popular in English speaking countries.

  19. I really looked forward to reading the comments here but they’re not up to the usual CP standard.

    This is a BIG move because China is announcing it independently and not holding it back for negotiations. It gives them the moral high ground as their emissions per person will cap below 10ppm (at about Japan/EU level) and half the US/Canada/Australia/OPEC countries. (And a chunk of China’s emissions are owned by customers in the US, UK, EU…)

    China can then calmly suggest contraction and convergence, backed by a tax/duties on higher emitters – and they’ll be right. Most of the world would back them, isolating the high emitters. The US is in a hole and we are still digging…

  20. fj says:

    Yes, unilateral action must proceed with all due speed to force the maximal level of US and global action.