Will China Have Cap and Trade Before the US?

ChinaFlagGreenUnderlying anxiety over China’s rapid economic advance, including its aggressive moves into clean technology, is an ideological uncertainty: is the Chinese system of government, which is non-democratic, but seemingly capable of moving quickly and unilaterally, fundamentally better than our messy democratic system that sometimes (all of the time?) hobbles its effectiveness with political bickering?

Now there is talk that China could announce a national cap and trade scheme as early as the Copenhagen climate talks in December, leapfrogging over the US.

Meanwhile, Washington’s version of cap and trade, a system to reduce pollution by capping emissions and trading emissions credits on an open market, has been declared DOA at least until next year, a victim of prolonged squabbling over health care and general political malaise.

Informed Speculation

Philippe Chauvancy, director of sales at Bluenext, a Paris-based environmental credits exchange, said during a panel discussion at the London Carbon Show that “China will have a cap-and-trade scheme before the US and we will hear some statement from China on this at Copenhagen.” From Risk.net:

“I do see room for a cap-and-trade scheme in the US but China has been investing heavily. It has the money, the people and the resources, and it will do something,” Chauvancy said.

The Bluenext Exchange announced on September 24 an agreement with the Beijing municipal government to establish a carbon trading standard. The move is seen as “the first step towards a voluntary system to limit emissions domestically in China,” according to a Bluenext press release (PDF).

Others on the Carbon Show panel disagreed with Chauvancy’s prediction, but there was agreement that China has the political will to act, and act forcefully and quickly. At the same time, the panelists noted the political morass in the US Congress put cap and trade here in doubt.

The Economy, Stupid

Before bemoaning one more benchmark at which the Chinese are beating us, it is important to note the risk of imposing a carbon emissions cap on an emerging economy, a risk the ruling Communist party is undoubtedly figuring into its calculations: that it will hamper growth.

China has the same fears as many in the US when it comes to limiting pollution: that such controls will slow economic growth. Each year, tens of millions of poor rural Chinese pour into the cities looking for work. Without a high rate of growth to provide these men and women with jobs, the state risks political upheaval.

There are many reasons China’s government is so vulnerable to instability. The biggest? It is not democratic.

BC (Ben) Upham is a freelance writer based in Los Angeles. He has written for the New York Times, and was a writer and editor for News Communications, Inc., a local paper consortium serving Manhattan. When he's not blogging on green issues -- and especially renewable energy -- he's hiking in the Angeles Mountains or hanging out at El Matador.

8 responses

  1. What some see as hobbled with political bickering, others see as honest debate necessary to our countries survival. It is a good thing to hear multiple theories and viewpoints on legislation that is placed before Congress. This allows for informed decisions and empowers the people of America to be involved. The proposed cap and trade legislation is one of those issues in which Americans have to voice their opinion. A majority do not support legislation that will raise energy prices and kill jobs, all while doing little to actually help the environment. Visit http://tiny.cc/pxIgi to ensure your voice is heard by Congress in the debate over cap and trade.

  2. China is moving faster than the US in implimenting a Socialist agenda? I’m SHOCKED! You must be kidding?

    Sustainability has a solid business case that can be made. Capitalism is embracing the sustainability movement at a rapid pace. People who use environmental radicalism to impliment political agendas are the problem here, not the solution.

    China’s human rights record, religious freedom record and environmental record speak volumes about their true intentions. Does the Communist government really care about the environment or do they care about controling the people?

    1. Capitalizm is on life support, the life support equipment is paid for by China and rich oil states, but if US fails, China will follow, then the rest of the world might follow, Why you think China give bailout money to US that it will never get back, or Japan, in return we have to buy steel from japan, not use the steel we have. Wait untill CASTA take effect, forget about manufactering base n US. Green energy and solar, made i China, another reason to give bail-out. Beside human rights, the US is the worst their is, Gutanama bay or abu graib in Iraq, the few we know about

      1. LOL, you can’t be serious in stating that the US is the worst with regards to human rights abuses. How many people were killed by the People’s Republic of China during the Cultural Revolution? How many people were killed during the Communist take over of Russia? How many people have been killed by the military rule Junta of Myanamar? Let’s not forget the killing fields in North Korea, of which we still don’t know how many succumbed to death under the iron fist of communist rule.

        Yet you think the US is the worst? No doubt you’re an ill-informed tool.

      2. WK – Why do comments like this get approved? Mass consumerism is a problem, capitalism is not. China has a vastly worse human rights record than the US. You can criticize US policy all you want, just please do so at something above a high school level.

  3. In answer to your question, indeed the Chinese government can move in a more quickly and effecient manner than any other nation that adheres to a democratic process. The reason being is that they’re not hampered by such silly notions as human rights, compensation towards victims of human rights attrocities, personal liberties of its own citizenry, or any other hurdle that attempts to conform its government into a more benevolent system. For further proof into the matter, look no further than the Chinese Cultural Revolution of the 60’s, Tiananmen Square protest of 1989, or any number of recent industrial events showing a complete disregard for the value of human life.

    Oh, yes, the Chinese way of getting things done is certainly to be admired. Moron.

  4. Out of curiosity, does the author have any sort of knowledge concerning the history of China? Do they realize that the Chinese government has an attrocious record when it comes to human rights abuses against its own citizens? The Cultural Revolution of the 60s realized millions of dead citizens that were either unable or unwilling to convert to a more modern chinese lifestyle. Other examples would include Tianemen Square, religious persecution, an industrial work ethic that would send OSHA into screaming fits, and the Three Gorges Dam and the environemental and social impacts of the project.

    Indeed there are many other examples of the brutality that the Chinese government is capable of inflicting on its people, all for the sake of efficiency. I wouldn’t be so enamored with their efficiency.

  5. No special interst. The interest is the interest of the nation as a whole. US is the only stupid country that engage on wars to chahge regime instead of talking care of its own people, and it’s always broke making it weak, so special interest can looby and bribe lawmakers to pass laws that will increase their profit

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