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September 21, 2012
China Joins with EU to Reduce Emissions
    by Robert Kropp

The European Union will help China reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by contributing $32.5 million for the development of Emissions Trading Systems.

Despite its official status as a developing nation, China has had one of the fastest growing national economies for many years, and it now emits more greenhouse gases (GHG) than any other country. Meanwhile, international efforts to reach emissions reduction agreements that include the largest developing nations have foundered over the responsibility of developed nations to help reduce emissions elsewhere.

A glimmer of hope occurred this week, when the European Union (EU) and China agreed to collaborate in an effort to reduce Chinese emissions. The EU agreed to provide $32.5 million over four years to fund three development projects in China: developing an emissions trading scheme (ETS); the adoption by Chinese cities of energy efficiency measures; and the improvement of sustainable waste policies.

The project receiving the most attention is the development of an ETS. The EU ETS has been in force since 2005, providing GHG emissions allowances to 11,000 power stations and industrial plants in 30 countries. The scheme has come in for some criticism, largely because of the high number of permits have contributed to a steep decline in carbon prices. The prices at present are considered too low to contribute effectively to a low-carbon economy.

Nevertheless, the EU wants to improve the effectiveness of the ETS by linking it to those of other regions. Last month, Australia announced that it will link its system with that of the EU, suggesting the potential for an eventual global system. And according to Connie Hedegaard, the EU's Climate Action Commissioner, the agreement with China "is an important step for an ever closer cooperation towards a robust international carbon market. Needless to say that it makes a significant difference when now also China wants to use carbon markets to reduce emissions cost-effectively and boost low-carbon technologies."

"Our joint commitment to carbon markets shows the potential and benefits of smart climate policies," Hedegaard continued.

Despite its high emissions, China ranked first in Ernst & Young's recently published Renewable Energy Country Attractiveness Indices, having quadrupled its solar capacity target to 50 gigawatts (GW) by 2020. And in an analysis of China's 12th five-year plan, Nicholas Stern wrote, "China is already at the forefront of the development of new low-carbon technologies and China has a great deal to gain by being in the vanguard of this new global growth story."

"The low-carbon economy is a central priority in the 12th five-year plan," Stern continued.


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