China’s Belt and Road initiative (BRI) presents a challenge to global efforts to tackle climate change and move toward a carbon neutral pathway. With $900 billion in potential foreign infrastructure spending under the BRI framework indicated by President Xi, China’s BRI could help – or hurt – clean energy development in emerging economics.
China has trumpeted its commitment to build a green BRI, most recently at the BRI Summit in Beijing, and as far back as 2015 when the central government stated “efforts should be made to promote green and low-carbon infrastructure construction and operation management, taking into full account the impact of climate change.” Since then, China has issued related policies including the “Guiding Opinions on Promoting a Green BRI.”
China’s emission trading system (ETS), which has been operating as regional pilot programs since 2013, was expanded nationwide in December 2017. At this juncture, the national carbon market covers only the power generation sector — covering 1,700 emitters and a third of China’s total emissions. The sector was chosen because it is responsible for so much of China’s carbon emissions, and because it has a relatively solid system of emission data collection. Taking a close look at the national ETS after one year is worthwhile because it is a key component of China’s effort to pursue economic development in a way that delivers growth, protects the natural environment and reduces carbon emissions.
With the 24th Conference of Parties coming to a close, the world has been looking toward Poland for new signs of hope in the climate change challenge. Saturday’s encouraging 200-country deal notwithstanding, recent reports show that not enough is being done to limit the global temperature increase to 2 degrees centigrade, which experts consider necessary to prevent the worst effects of dangerous climate change. In addition, the Trump administration in the United States has rejected climate science and wants to blow off the Paris Agreement, threatening to undermine the international cooperation that is critical to addressing one of the 21st century’s most urgent and complex global problems.
Other countries (and US sub-national actors), however, have not given up. Policymakers, researchers, and advocacy organizations around the world are pressing forward in the design and implementation of new climate solutions. One of the most promising areas of work is green finance – the effort to ensure that public and private investments in financial assets are both profitable and environment-friendly.
China is undergoing an enormous government restructuring, strengthening policy integration among government agencies. A major reform that has been little-noticed outside the climate policy community is the move of the Department of Climate Change from the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), the influential economic planning agency, to China’s new Ministry of Ecology and Environment (MEE).
Released on Monday, the organizational reform plan, or “San Ding Fang’an,” lays out the MEE’s mandate, organizational structure and staffing details. The MEE’s mandate on climate policy has three parts — to develop macro-level climate strategy, plans and policy; to jointly lead climate international climate change negotiations together with other relevant ministries; and to implement and coordinate affairs related to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.
What is the implication of these changes in China’s future climate policy? Shall we expect more-ambitious goals, or the contrary? What specific policies and actions can we expect from the new MEE?