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It may be a small beginning but China is to start a similar scheme later in the year. When the European Union launched its Emissions Trading System ETS in , it was assumed that it was the first step in what would eventually be a global market.
A similar scheme was being prepared in the United States, and both presidential candidates in the election supported it. But shortly after his election, Barack Obama saw his proposal for a scheme rejected by Republicans in the US Congress. Left with no other large system to link with, the EU's ETS has languished since then, struggling under the burden of too-low prices on carbon.
It's not exactly the globally linked system that was envisaged. Emissions trading, also known as cap-and-trade, provides economic incentives for companies to reduce their emissions, by establishing a price for carbon. Companies must turn in allowances to emit carbon, some of which are given to them for free, some of which must be purchased. They can then trade the allowances they don't need on the open market.
A glut of free allowances, partly due to the industrial slowdown caused by the economic crisis of , has resulted in a carbon price that is far too low to have a significant effect in reducing emissions. But as other countries have watched Europe's market struggle, few have wanted to follow the EU's lead.
But the legislation was repealed after a change of government in But Aki Kachi, a policy director with the analyst Carbon Market Watch, says the success of those systems has also been debatable. Consequently, enthusiasm has waned. But not everyone is so down on cap-and-trade. Later this year, China is set to launch a national emissions trading system similar to the EU's.
It will cover about a quarter of the country's industrial emissions, and expand upon the country's existing regional pilot schemes in Beijing, Chongqing, Guangdong, Hunan, Shanghai, Shenzhen and Tianjin. Details are still murky, and it is unclear whether the promised size will really be born out. It now looks likely that the government will delay the launch of the scheme until Still, the launch of the Chinese scheme will reopen the prospect of a globally linked carbon market, an idea which for many years has seemed dead.
At the same time, Donald Trump's decision to pull the US out of the Paris climate agreement has prompted US state governments to accelerate development of their two fledgling regional cap-and-trade schemes. Donald Trump's decision to pull out of the Paris climate agreement has affected cap-and-trade schemes. Don't hold your breath, says Kachi. In the end, many analysts say it may not be a big deal if the EU ETS ends up never linking to any other systems at all.
In fact, it may be better that way. NYU Professor Jessica Green has argued against such linkages, saying a global network of cap-and-trade systems would deliver greater complexity and fewer emissions cuts. For now, policymakers in the EU are waiting to see what changes China's new system brings before they start thinking about possible future opportunities to link to it.
But the dream of a global carbon market is not dead in the water - yet. The EU aims to reduce CO2 emissions by 40 percent by To meet this goal, the European Commission has come up with ideas to reform its carbon trading system. An EU emissions trading system revision has been agreed by its environment ministers in Brussels. It's supposed to cap climate-damaging gases beyond European Parliament Greens say the deal is too industry-friendly.
But critics argue that carbon trading is a long way from providing a global solution to reducing emissions. A court in Frankfurt is looking into the role that suspended employees of Deutsche Bank played in a large-scale fraud scheme involving the trading of carbon permits.
The trial is to continue until May. With or without the cooperation of the US government, nations around the world have begun to take collective action against climate change.
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