Sandbag is a UK based not-for-profit organisation campaigning for environmentally and economically effective climate policies, with a focus on the EU Emissions Trading System (ETS).
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Trading places? / 碳排放交易:中国超越欧洲?
posted by Rob on 18th May 2012

The European Union (EU) has long seen itself in the vanguard of action on climate change. At the centre of its climate policy is the EU emissions trading scheme (ETS). Covering around half of the EU's emissions of CO2, it is designed to put a price on carbon, incentivising companies to reduce emissions and drive investment in low-carbon technologies.

But while the EU’s scheme is the biggest in the world, it is struggling to maintain traction. Awash with too many carbon allowances due to over-allocation and the effects of an unforeseen recession, the scheme looks to be fundamentally failing to achieve what it was designed to do.

Pressure to fix the scheme is mounting and there is growing political consensus – supported by a raft of progressive business voices including Shell, Philips, Doosan and Unilever amongst others – that the European Commission should take appropriate action to reduce the oversupply of allowances in order to bolster the carbon price, giving a clearer investment signal to businesses.

Once the only game in town, the EU ETS is being joined by a range of new regional emissions trading schemes: New Zealand, Australia, South Korea – and now China. A new report on emissions trading in China, by my organisation Sandbag, a UK-based NGO focused on the issue of carbon trading, shows the speed at and extent to which things are changing. The report argues that Europe must now fix its own faltering scheme by removing the large oversupply of allowances currently flooding the market and preventing it from functioning correctly.

It will come as no surprise to those who follow international climate negotiations that the EU’s preferred climate policy is emissions trading. With this in mind, an internationally linked carbon market based on mandatory national ETSs is the proverbial “holy grail”. However, the failure of the United States to ratify the Kyoto Protocol and its subsequent reluctance to adopt a national emissions trading scheme has left the EU without a natural partner.

Developing countries not bound by emissions reduction commitments looked to the Kyoto Protocol’s clean development mechanism (CDM) as a way to engage with carbon markets and bring in much needed investment. While the CDM has provided an important learning curve and source of investment for developing countries, its “baseline and credit” approach means carbon credits are generated for emissions reduction set below a baseline. This approach maintains a dependency on mandatory schemes to sell credits into, notably the EU ETS.

The EU has increasingly sought to wean countries off baseline and credit mechanisms – such as the CDM – in favour of mandatory emissions trading schemes with a fixed cap on emissions, or “cap-and-trade” schemes. To this end, the EU and its member states have invested in projects to assist countries, including China, with capacity building and knowledge sharing in developing and setting up emissions trading schemes.

However, neither the EU nor the rest of the international community counted on China moving to implement its own ETS as part of its domestic policy. 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. The Chinese authorities are acutely aware that environmental pressures can overflow into social unrest and so any future economic growth must be done in a sustainable way.

China is also increasingly conscious that its ability to deal with escalating environmental concerns through traditional command and control measures are ever more inadequate. China's economy has become too sophisticated to be managed in a traditional style. Command and control measures are no longer able to deliver the desired results and attitudes need to change fundamentally to embrace innovation and sustainability.

This has led China to pursue a more sustainable economic model focusing on qualitative economic and social development. The newly adopted 12th Five Year Plan (FYP) plan includes prominent energy efficiency and carbon intensity targets. Touted as the greenest FYP ever, it introduces emission trading as one of the innovative new policy tools to be tested. China has already announced pilot projects to be implemented in five municipal areas, Beijing, Chongqing, Shanghai, Shenzhen and Tianjin, and two provinces – Guangdong and Hubei – from 2013.

The diverse locations of these seven projects means that they will reflect different levels of economic activity and development, allowing China to test various emissions trading models and meaning that experience can be gathered on a municipal and provincial level before any such scheme is implemented on the national level in 2016.

While the Chinese pilot projects are taking shape faster than many may have envisaged, it’s important that expectations are managed. For all the hype, these pilots are still a long way from being implemented successfully. Moreover, these pilots, being the first to look at the practicalities around implementing emissions trading in China, face a range of technical and practical challenges.

A report by China’s Development Research Centre highlighted a number of pressing concerns, including: issues surrounding the distribution of allowances; market behaviour; trading regulations; responsibilities of parties; and legal infrastructure. Further concerns remain around how to establish a cap based on an energy intensity target, determining which sectors are to be included and how to incorporate downstream as well as upstream emissions into any scheme.

Another key challenge for China is how to bring the power sector into an emissions trading scheme when the price of electricity is regulated. Finally, and perhaps most importantly in emissions trading, all market participants must have confidence that what they are trading is genuine. This places a high degree of importance on the monitoring and verification of the activities of the participants.

While the EU ETS is struggling to remain relevant under the weight of excess carbon allowances, it has still gathered a vast amount of experience. Operational since 2005, the EU ETS has the dubious honour of being the first such scheme and it can boast a range of learning-by-doing experiences. With the luxury of hindsight, it’s unlikely that the EU would make the same mistakes twice. Likewise, China must think if the same could happen to its scheme in the future – and how similar issues could be avoided.

The challenges facing China mean that in developing Chinese solutions, the experience and expertise gathered by the EU will be invaluable. As will a strengthened partnership between the EU and China on climate-change issue. But the world does not stay static for long and China’s ambitions are clear. Failure by the EU not to fix its own ailing ETS would be nothing more than misguided complacency, which would risk leaving the EU ETS trailing other more flexible schemes.


碳排放交易:中国超越欧洲?

一直以来,欧盟都自诩为应对气候变化领域的先行者。欧盟排放交易方案(ETS)是欧盟气候变化政策的核心。该计划覆盖了欧盟一半左右的二氧化碳排放,旨在为碳排放定出明确的价格,以鼓励企业减排,促进低碳技术领域投资。但是,规模世界第一的欧盟碳排放交易方案目前正面临着发展乏力的问题。由于欧盟内部排放配额泛滥,加上始料未及的经济危机,排放交易计划似乎根本无法实现预期目标。

目前,要求修改排放交易计划的压力越来越大。在壳牌、飞利浦、斗山和联合利华等众多革新企业的支持下,各方正越来越明确地达成一项政治共识:欧盟委员会应该采取适当的措施减少碳排放配额,以加强碳价格稳定性,并为商业投资提供更加明确的信号。

随着新西兰、澳大利亚、韩国相继推出地区性排放交易方案,欧盟排放交易方案已经不再一支独秀。如今,中国也在酝酿自己的碳排放交易方案。“沙袋”是一家总部设在英国的非政府组织,致力于碳交易问题的研究,我就在那里工作。我们对中国碳交易的最新报告显示了中国碳交易事业极高的发展速度。报告认为,目前欧洲市场上碳排放配额供给过剩,影响了排放交易方案的正常运行。欧盟只有采取措施减少碳排放配额的供给,才能帮助摇摇欲坠的碳排放交易方案重新走上正确的道路。

关注国际气候谈判的朋友都知道,碳排放交易是欧盟最中意的气候政策。在这样的情况下,基于各国法定碳排放交易方案的国际碳市场就理所当然地成为欧盟气候政策的终极目标。但由于美国未加入《京都议定书》并且缺乏实施国家排放交易方案的意愿,欧盟在碳排放交易方面少了一个天然的伙伴。

不受减排承诺约束的发展中国家将《京都议定书》中的清洁发展机制(CDM)视作参与碳排放市场和吸引外部投资的有效途径。虽然清洁发展机制为发展中国家提供了宝贵的经验和投资,但其“基线与信用额”的模式意味着基线以下的排放量才能获得碳信用额。这样的模式仍然依赖于欧盟排放交易方案等可以出售碳信用额的法定机制。欧盟一直试图说服各国放弃清洁发展机制等“基线与信用额”的模式,转而采用固定排放配额和“总量限制与交易机制”的模式。为了实现这一目标,欧盟及其成员国投资开展了很多项目,与包括中国在内的各国分享建立健全碳排放交易方案的经验,帮助这些国家进行能力建设。

尽管如此,无论是欧盟还是国际社会都没指望中国能迅速出台自己的排放交易方案。过去三十年中,中国经历了前所未有的快速经济发展。廉价的对外出口和国内市场的开放彻底改变了这个国家的面貌。但对低技能劳动力和资源投入的依赖也造成了越来越突出的社会、环境和政治紧张。中国政府明白,环境压力会引发社会动荡,因此未来的经济发展必须走可持续的道路。中国官方也越来越清楚地认识到,依靠行政命令已经不足以解决日益严重的环境问题。中国经济如今的发展水平已非传统管理模式可以应付。在行政命令效果大减的情况下,必须从根本上转变态度,倡导创新与可持续性。

在这样的思路指导下,中国开始追求更可持续性的经济发展模式,强调经济和社会发展的质量。新近开始实施的“十二五”规划中引入了能源利用效率和碳强度目标,令人瞩目。“十二五”规划前所未有地强调了低碳环保的重要性,提出了包括碳交易在内的多项试验性政策工具。中国官方已经宣布,自2013年起将在北京、重庆、上海、深圳、天津等五个城市,以及广东和湖北两个省份进行碳交易项目的试点。

上述七个项目选址各具特色,代表了不同地区不同的经济发展水平。通过这样的广泛试点,中国可以尝试多种多样的排放交易模式,并为2016年推行全国碳排放方案积累经验。

虽然中国碳排放交易试点项目的进展超出了许多人的预期,但我们仍然不应该抱有过高的期望。虽然媒体宣传中不乏溢美之词,但上述试点项目要取得成功,还有很长一段路要走。除此之外,这七个试点项目毕竟是中国探索碳排放交易可行性的第一步,仍然面临着许多技术上和实际操作上的挑战。

中国发展研究中心的一份报告提出了一些迫切需要解决的问题,包括排放配额如何分配,市场行为,交易监管,市场主体责任划分,以及基本的法律架构。除此之外,如何制定基于能源强度目标的排放上限,方案应涵盖那些行业,以及如何兼顾上下游排放也需要进一步思考。中国面临的另外一项重大挑战便是如何在国家控制电价的情况下将发电行业纳入排放交易方案之内。最后,或许也是排放交易中最重要的问题便是:参与市场活动的各方必须对他们交易产品的真实可信性有充足的信心。这要求政府设立相应的机制,对市场参与者的活动进行有效的监督和查证。

虽然欧盟排放交易方案的有效性受过多碳排放配额的影响而大大减弱,但它仍然积累了丰富的经验。2005年正式施行的欧盟排放交易方案不仅是世界上首个类似的机制,更堪称“从实践中学习”的典范。正因为有了事后的反思,同样的错误欧盟不会犯两次。中国也应该思考欧盟有哪些经验和教训值得借鉴,以避免走欧盟当年的老路。

正因为中国面临着巨大的挑战,欧盟的经验和专业知识对中国建立碳排放交易方案更显得弥足珍贵。中国和欧盟还应该进一步加强在气候变化事物上伙伴关系。但毕竟世界处在飞速变化中,而且中国的雄心壮志显而易见。除非欧盟能将日渐式微的排放交易方案重新带回正轨,否则盲目的自满只能让欧盟排放交易方案落后于其他更为灵活的机制。

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