China—the world’s largest polluter—has sought to portray itself as a leader in the global fight against climate change in recent years. The country has expedited the development of renewable energy power plants, experimented with cap-and-trade programs and last year committed to curb its growing carbon dioxide emissions in coming decades.
But despite these initiatives many lawmakers in the United States and policy makers around the world have viewed China’s environmental programs with skepticism—more promise than performance. China’s landmark announcement Friday of a national cap-and-trade program and other policies to reduce carbon emissions should ameliorate some of those concerns, experts said, even while the country faces roadblocks to implementation.
Last year’s joint announcement from the U.S. and China set big goals on the part of both countries to eventually reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The U.S. promised to reduce carbon emissions by 26% to 28% below 2005 levels by 2025, and Chinese officials said the country’s carbon dioxide emissions would reach peak levels by 2030.
This week’s announcement, both from the U.S. and China, follows up on that target, providing a plan to reach it. A cap-and-trade program would set a national limit in China on carbon emissions in the heavy-polluting industries of power generation, iron and steel, chemicals, and building materials and require companies to buy credits to pollute. Another program will prioritize the use renewable energy on the grid. (Right now, while China produces a great deal of renewable energy, problems with the grid means much of it goes unused.) The country will also improve appliance and vehicle efficiency standards.