China seeks cooperation on building up its carbon market

,

Caixin Media, San Francisco

The 73-year-old former vice president of Tsinghua University, He Jiankun, is still active in the field of climate change – and he’s making cooperation on establishing a globally-connected carbon market his latest priority.

During the Global Climate Action Summit (GCAS) in San Francisco, He led an exchange between a delegation from the Institute of Climate Change and Sustainable Development at Tsinghua University (ICCSD), where he serves as Director of the Academic Council, and experts and researchers from various countries.

They discussed ways they could cooperate to push forward global action on climate change and contribute to ensuring their respective countries meet their emissions reduction commitments under the Paris Agreement, a landmark accord aimed at limiting global warming.

He told Caixin Media that establishing a carbon market is a very important part of China's policy mix for addressing climate change.

“It is better to do it sooner than later,” He told Caixin Media. “We can also play a leading role in the world if we do it early.”

Based on the experience of the seven national carbon market pilot projects in Beijing, Shenzhen, Tianjin, Shanghai, Chongqing, Guangdong and Hubei provinces, “China's carbon market is sure to succeed," said He. 

Cooperation is key
Despite an ongoing trade dispute between Washington and Beijing, China has, in recent years, established partnerships aimed at mitigating climate change with California, which hosted the GCAS from Sept. 12-14.

On September 11th, as a prelude to the GCAS, ICCSD and the US Environmental Defense Fund signed a memorandum of cooperation that includes joint research on how to promote a national carbon market in China and build the knowledge and resources of China’s government officials and businesses.

The partnership would also address China's low-carbon mid- and long-term development strategy, green finance and environmental research on the construction of the Belt and Road Initiative.

“The Environmental Defense Fund has many very good ideas,” said He, pointing to its work with McDonald’s as an example of how an environmental organization could help businesses become more environmentally friendly.

He said he believes that the carbon market would provide economic incentives for reducing carbon emissions and that countries all over the world must promote it.

Cross-border programs that connect carbon-trading markets already exist in the European Union and the US state of California, which has linked its program with similar ones in Quebec and Ontario provinces in Canada, allowing them to trade carbon credits with one another. Professor He said it's very important to connect the carbon trade market around the world.  

So far China’s efforts to address climate change have come mostly through government regulation, said He, pointing to subsidies for renewable energy awarded to companies for saving energy.

“More and more of the subsidy money ends up being unaffordable, so we need to add some market mechanisms,” he said.

Establishing a market for carbon trading would help high energy-use industries such as steel and cement manufacturing to operate more efficiently and invest in new low-carbon technologies, He added.

In addition, he mentioned that many Chinese enterprises have not accurately calculated their energy consumption and carbon dioxide emissions.

“After entering the carbon market, they can establish a system for statistical monitoring and reporting, and organize a third party to conduct verification, promoting the transparency and fairness of carbon prices,” He said. 

This story was supported by the 2018 Climate Change Media Partnership (CCMP), a collaboration between Internews’ Earth Journalism Network and the Stanley Foundation.

He jiankun (middle) led a group of Chinese experts to San Francisco, where they met with researchers from various countries during the Global Climate Action Summit to exchange ideas and find ways to cooperate / Credit Chen Zhou

【财新网】(特派旧金山记者 周辰)73岁的清华大学前常务副校长何建坤依旧活跃在气候变化领域,在美国旧金山全球气候行动峰会(GCAS)期间,他作为国家气候变化专家委员会副主任和清华大学气候变化与可持续发展研究院(下称清华大学气候院)学术委员会主任,带领数位中国专家与各国的研究者热切交流,寻找合作途径。“我现在退休了,就是干点自己有兴趣的事。”他向财新记者表示,建立碳市场是中国应对气候变化的政策组合中非常重要的一环。

  清华大学气候院成立于2017年12月,由中国气候变化事务特别代表解振华担任首任院长。9月15日,解振华在GCAS中国角的一场演讲中特别提到了研究院发展的良好势头:“加州州长布朗昨天晚上在晚宴的时候专程找我,说要在退休后也加入清华大学的气候院,而且愿意跟我一起当联合院长。昨天下午加州的一位基金会负责人找我说,听说他们州长退休后要去我们这当联合院长,他们基金会愿意提供资源来帮助我们,他们也愿意把加州的所有大学团结起来,跟我们一起搞合作。”

  9月11日,作为GCAS系列活动的一个前奏,清华大学气候院与美国环保协会签署了一份备忘录,宣布开展战略合作,合作内容包括开展全国碳市场设计、中国中长期低碳发展转型、绿色一带一路建设、全球气候治理体系建设等研究工作,并开展针对政府部门官员、企业与有关机构的能力建设活动,增强相关人员及全社会对碳排放交易、气候变化、低碳发展战略与绿色金融的理解,促进人才培养、科学研究、国际合作等方面合作。

  在评价这一合作方时,何建坤告诉财新记者,“美国环保协会很多理念非常好,比如发现麦当劳原来用的塑料盒,就让他们改用纸盒,帮企业解决问题,而不是去游行示威堵着店门口不让你做生意。企业非常高兴。”他认为,环保组织要做社会的参与者和贡献者,不能光做监督者和对抗者,一些极端的环保组织的行动效果并不好,并不受大家欢迎。

  何建坤认为,碳市场作为全球公认的减排的市场手段之一,全世界的国家都要推进,“晚做不如早做,早做在世界上也可以起到引领的作用,有了试点的成功经验,中国的碳市场肯定能成功,这个要有信心。”

  据他介绍,在全球范围内有关碳排放交易体系连接的工作在持续进行中,加州和加拿大魁北克省自2014年开始共同运行同一个碳市场;日本的琦玉市和东京的碳交易体系也已经相互连接;2017年底,欧盟和瑞士签署了碳市场连接的协议。此外,在全球其他地区也出现了新的区域网络和协调平台。

  “推进任何目标都是多种政策的组合,都是打组合拳,中国应对气候变化也是很多政策的组合,碳市场也是其中的一个,”何建坤向财新记者表示,“中国推进气候变化最多的是政府规制性的一些措施,比如可再生能源有补贴,节能就给奖励,不节能就惩罚,补贴的钱越来越多最后补不起了,所以要再加上一些市场机制。”

  他认为,通过适当的碳排放的交易,给二氧化碳一个合理的定价,一方面可以给企业非常重要的预期,投资新的技术促进企业升级,减少碳排放,另外一些金融机构也会更加倾向于投资新能源和低碳的技术。“中国的钢铁水泥等一些高耗能的产业,生产能力是过剩的,存在大量落后的低效率企业,可以通过碳价激励先进的产能,把落后的生产能力逐渐淘汰掉。”

  另外,何建坤提到,中国很多企业之前对能源消费量和二氧化碳的排放,统计测算是不太准确的,在他们进入碳市场后,建立统计监测上报的系统,并组织第三方进行核查,可以保障碳价的透明性和公平性准确性。