China seeks cooperation on building up its carbon market


Caixin Media, San Francisco

The 73-year-old former vice president of Tsinghua University, He Jiankun, is still active in the field of climate change – and he’s making cooperation on establishing a globally-connected carbon market his latest priority.

During the Global Climate Action Summit (GCAS) in San Francisco, He led an exchange between a delegation from the Institute of Climate Change and Sustainable Development at Tsinghua University (ICCSD), where he serves as Director of the Academic Council, and experts and researchers from various countries.

They discussed ways they could cooperate to push forward global action on climate change and contribute to ensuring their respective countries meet their emissions reduction commitments under the Paris Agreement, a landmark accord aimed at limiting global warming.

He told Caixin Media that establishing a carbon market is a very important part of China's policy mix for addressing climate change.

“It is better to do it sooner than later,” He told Caixin Media. “We can also play a leading role in the world if we do it early.”

Based on the experience of the seven national carbon market pilot projects in Beijing, Shenzhen, Tianjin, Shanghai, Chongqing, Guangdong and Hubei provinces, “China's carbon market is sure to succeed," said He. 

Cooperation is key
Despite an ongoing trade dispute between Washington and Beijing, China has, in recent years, established partnerships aimed at mitigating climate change with California, which hosted the GCAS from Sept. 12-14.

On September 11th, as a prelude to the GCAS, ICCSD and the US Environmental Defense Fund signed a memorandum of cooperation that includes joint research on how to promote a national carbon market in China and build the knowledge and resources of China’s government officials and businesses.

The partnership would also address China's low-carbon mid- and long-term development strategy, green finance and environmental research on the construction of the Belt and Road Initiative.

“The Environmental Defense Fund has many very good ideas,” said He, pointing to its work with McDonald’s as an example of how an environmental organization could help businesses become more environmentally friendly.

He said he believes that the carbon market would provide economic incentives for reducing carbon emissions and that countries all over the world must promote it.

Cross-border programs that connect carbon-trading markets already exist in the European Union and the US state of California, which has linked its program with similar ones in Quebec and Ontario provinces in Canada, allowing them to trade carbon credits with one another. Professor He said it's very important to connect the carbon trade market around the world.  

So far China’s efforts to address climate change have come mostly through government regulation, said He, pointing to subsidies for renewable energy awarded to companies for saving energy.

“More and more of the subsidy money ends up being unaffordable, so we need to add some market mechanisms,” he said.

Establishing a market for carbon trading would help high energy-use industries such as steel and cement manufacturing to operate more efficiently and invest in new low-carbon technologies, He added.

In addition, he mentioned that many Chinese enterprises have not accurately calculated their energy consumption and carbon dioxide emissions.

“After entering the carbon market, they can establish a system for statistical monitoring and reporting, and organize a third party to conduct verification, promoting the transparency and fairness of carbon prices,” He said. 

This story was supported by the 2018 Climate Change Media Partnership (CCMP), a collaboration between Internews’ Earth Journalism Network and the Stanley Foundation.

He jiankun (middle) led a group of Chinese experts to San Francisco, where they met with researchers from various countries during the Global Climate Action Summit to exchange ideas and find ways to cooperate / Credit Chen Zhou

【财新网】(特派旧金山记者 周辰)73岁的清华大学前常务副校长何建坤依旧活跃在气候变化领域,在美国旧金山全球气候行动峰会(GCAS)期间,他作为国家气候变化专家委员会副主任和清华大学气候变化与可持续发展研究院(下称清华大学气候院)学术委员会主任,带领数位中国专家与各国的研究者热切交流,寻找合作途径。“我现在退休了,就是干点自己有兴趣的事。”他向财新记者表示,建立碳市场是中国应对气候变化的政策组合中非常重要的一环。