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China launches nationwide carbon emission trading scheme in power section

China announced its long-awaited nationwide emissions trading scheme (ETS) this week, with its first phase focusing on the power sector. Once put into operation, it is expected to be the world’s largest such program. CGTN visited one of China’s seven pilot carbon trading centers in Beijing to unveil the scheme.

Shan Lining works as a carbon emissions trader at China Beijing Environment Exchange. Her mission is to link finance with emission-cutting purposes.

As an environmental sustainability enthusiast, she is quite satisfied with her daily work, in which she deals with both data and local enterprises.

“In 2015, the emissions trading market experienced a quick expansion. Since then, more and more enterprises have gotten to know the process and are willing to take part. That’s where I gradually found the real pleasure of work,” said Shan.

By putting a cap on the overall amount of carbon emissions from sectors like the power, steel, and cement-making industries, emissions trading is like matchmaking between heavy-polluting and energy-saving firms. Take Beijing as an example.

Companies with annual carbon emissions of over 5,000 tons are required to buy permits from those with less. Beijing is among the seven locations which have launched the pilot schemes since 2013. Nearly 1,000 companies are participating in the program, covering about 45 percent of the city’s total emissions.

The idea of the emissions trading scheme originated from the Kyoto Protocol in 1997, which aimed to mitigate the impact of climate change.

Back then, Zhou Cheng was one of China’s negotiators in drafting the protocol. 20 years later, Zhou, as the vice president of China Beijing Environmental Exchange, is taking on more responsibilities.

“For a nationwide market, we need to first fill in the gaps of the massive emissions data that many companies are short of. At the same time, some companies still know little about the ETS, so there’s also a great need for training. I have confidence in that,” said Zhou.

Experts are also calling for more transparency in emissions data to gain market trust. Ma Jun, director of the Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs (IPE), says it is very important to make more emission data available to the public in order to increase their confidence.

“If you look at the European Union’s trading system and the carbon trade in California, America, all these facility-based emission volume, all these data are openly available. People can check that, that’s very important, because we are talking about a virtual right of emission,” he said.

There is still a transitional period to go before nationwide transactions take place. But with the US’ withdrawal from the Paris climate accord, the whole world is now pinning great hopes on China’s ETS application.