For too long, developed countries have used the excuse there is little point in acting to tackle climate change, if China, now the world's biggest emitter, doesn't act too. Sandbag's new report into the emergence of emissions trading in China shows the speed and extent to which things are changing and we argue that Europe must now increase its own ambitions.
All too often China's size and rapid development leads people to the conclusion that no action is being taken on climate change, that it is a polluting behemoth whose addiction to coal undermines all global efforts to avoid the worst effects of climate change. It is certainly true that in terms of addressing climate change few countries matter as much as China. A report from the International Energy Agency (IEA) shows that in 2009 China and the US alone accounted for 41%, or 12Gt, of the worlds carbon dioxide emissions. Yet China must be understood in context. It is a rapidly developing superpower with a bewilderingly large population, facing increasing social tension fuelled by, among other things, its environmental limitations.
Over the past 30 years, China has experienced unprecedented economic growth. Its ability to provide cheap goods for western export markets, coupled with the opening up of domestic markets has transformed the country. Yet a reliance on low-skilled labour coupled with high resource use is bringing with it increasingly unwelcome social, environmental and political tensions."
"China is drawing on lessons learned from the existing emissions trading schemes around the world. The EU has a wealth of experience in pricing carbon, it's emissions trading scheme – the largest in the world – provides valuable insight into how to, and arguably, how not to, set about implementing an emissions trading scheme. But the Chinese are not only looking to the EU, they are rightly learning from other countries and regions including Australia, New Zealand and California."