Opinions and Analysis
iGDP publishes opinions and analysis on a variety of media platforms. We also issue a quarterly newsletter, iGDP Insights, in which we provide analysis of developments and trends in climate policy. You can find our Insights on this page, or receive them in your inbox by requesting a subscription at firstname.lastname@example.org.
iGDP Insights - Leveraging Air Pollution to Reduce Carbon in China
The last few years have seen a number of disappointing developments in climate policy. In the US, which until recently was the biggest emitter of greenhouse gases, the Trump administration has turned its back on the Paris Agreement. China, which hopes to assume a leadership role in global mitigation efforts, is still building coal-fired power plants. And despite the fact that global emissions continue to increase, COP 22 failed to produce the strong commitments to action that the climate community has been calling for.
If the dire warnings of climate scientists can’t motivate serious action, what can? In China, going forward one of those things will likely be air quality. This is a policy area that has seen swift and decisive action in recent years, and that policymakers are increasingly seeing as a venue to achieve near-term gains in environmental quality and drive long-term changes in China’s economic structure.
Air pollution in China reached a nadir in the “Airpocalypse” of January 2013, when PM2.5 in and around Beijing reached record levels for a sustained period. This resulted in a widespread public outcry for clean air, and in March 2014, at the opening of the annual meeting of the National People’s Congress, Premier Li Keqiang declared a “war on pollution”.
iGDP Insights - What to Expect in China's Second Nationally Determined Contribution
After the hottest summer on human record, the 2019 Climate Action Summit will be held in New York on September 23. With Brazil struggling with the most intense rainforest fires in almost a decade and Greenland having recently experienced one of the most massive melting episodes in the last 700 years, urgency and action are the key words leading up to the summit.
Hosted by UN Secretary-General António Guterres, the summit aims to boost the ambition of the signatories to the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. According to the Paris Agreement’s implementation rules, countries are to submit their second round of NDCs in 2020. These new NDCs should show a strengthening of each country’s climate actions.
China is the world’s largest GHG emitter, but the general trend line of its climate actions gives us reason for hope. Of course, one is bound to be disappointed if the expectation is that China will stop burning coal tomorrow. But there are reasons to be bullish about China in the long run. Just this June, at the G20 summit in Japan, China, France and the UN reaffirmed their commitment to raise ambition in the new round of NDCs and to publish mid- and long-term low carbon development strategies by 2020.
So what can we expect from China’s second NDC? A new iGDP analytical report describes some of the possibilities (a summary of the report can be found here).
Time to Step Up to the Climate Plate
July 15, 2019
China clearly enhancing its Nationally Determined Contributions ahead of COP 26 would provide much-needed leadership and a shot of political energy and ambition.
The European Union’s recent failure to agree on strengthening its long-term climate change mitigation target and the division on climate change actions evident at the recent G20 Summit in Osaka have again highlighted the leadership gap and need for greater international cooperation in global environmental governance.
Observers have increasingly been looking to China to step up and fill this void. This came through loud and clear at the China Council for International Cooperation on Environment and Development (CCICED) annual general meeting held in Hangzhou in early June, along with the belief that this could revive and galvanize international environmental cooperation.
Leveraging China's "Green Soft Power" For Responsible Belt and Road Initiative Investment
May 14, 2019
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 National Carbon Market: Mapping Out the Road Ahead
January 4, 2019
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.
Money Grows on Trees: Financing China's Green Future
December 18, 2018
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.
Opinion: Regulatory Shakeup Gives Boost to Climate Change Reform
August 17, 2018
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?