Skip to Content
Uncategorized

China Is Creating the World’s Biggest Carbon Market

December 19, 2017

The globe’s largest polluter has a radical plan to clean up its act. Following speculation throughout the year, the New York Times now confirms that China’s government has announced a carbon market that will offer companies incentive to reduce emissions.

Here’s what you need to know:

  • —The new market puts a limit on how much carbon power plants can emit. Those that go over can buy credits to cover their emissions; those that clean up can sell off parts of their own quota.
  • —It will initially cover power generators that release over 26,000 tons of carbon a year. That’s a good place to start: they contributed nearly half of the country’s emissions from fossil fuels in 2016.
  • —That alone is a huge deal. The Times says that it accounts for 3.3 billion tons of CO2 per year. (For context, the EU’s carbon market covers two billion tons.)
  • —A lot is still up in the air. Exact timing and regulations are still to be decided, and there’s no word on when the new regulation could extend to other heavily polluting sectors, like transportation and construction.

Reactions are mixed:

  • —Al Gore tells the Times that this “is yet another powerful sign that a global sustainability revolution is underway.”
  • —Derek Scissors, a China-focused economist at the think tank American Enterprise Institute, says, “I don’t take the carbon market seriously.”

If it works, it could be a big deal. But that’s a big if:

  • —China is the world’s biggest emitter. It burns over half of the world’s coal per year.
  • —The news further cements China’s newfound role as de facto global climate leader, and it could both put a dent in its emissions and inspire other countries to make similar moves.
  • —But many other carbon markets have flopped in the past, and it’s unclear how well the new rules will be adopted in China.
  • <

Keep Reading

Most Popular

A Roomba recorded a woman on the toilet. How did screenshots end up on Facebook?

Robot vacuum companies say your images are safe, but a sprawling global supply chain for data from our devices creates risk.

A startup says it’s begun releasing particles into the atmosphere, in an effort to tweak the climate

Make Sunsets is already attempting to earn revenue for geoengineering, a move likely to provoke widespread criticism.

10 Breakthrough Technologies 2023

Every year, we pick the 10 technologies that matter the most right now. We look for advances that will have a big impact on our lives and break down why they matter.

The viral AI avatar app Lensa undressed me—without my consent

My avatars were cartoonishly pornified, while my male colleagues got to be astronauts, explorers, and inventors.

Stay connected

Illustration by Rose Wong

Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review

Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.

Thank you for submitting your email!

Explore more newsletters

It looks like something went wrong.

We’re having trouble saving your preferences. Try refreshing this page and updating them one more time. If you continue to get this message, reach out to us at customer-service@technologyreview.com with a list of newsletters you’d like to receive.