China Announces Long-Awaited Carbon Market Plan

On December 21, 2017, in Uncategorized, by timprofeta

The Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions at Duke University

Editor’s Note: The Climate Post will not circulate next week in observance of the holiday. It will return on January 4, 2018.

China, the world’s top polluter, unveiled plans for an emissions trading scheme on Tuesday.

This carbon market, which would allow facilities to trade credits for the right to emit planet-warming greenhouse gases, would initially start with China’s power sector. It would include approximately 1,700 utilities that each emit more than 26,000 tons of carbon a year—adding up to more than 3 billion tons of carbon emissions annually. Experts indicate it will take at least a year for the program to get underway, although the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) gave no hard deadlines for launch. Over time, China is expected to gradually tighten annual allocations to force up the emissions credit price.

“Everything is gradual, step by step,” said Li Junfeng, a senior government adviser on the carbon market plan.

Nine regions and cities, including Jiangsu, Fujian and seven regions with pilot schemes, will coordinate to establish the program, the NDRC said.

Although details of the market’s expansion have not yet been released, once the market is fully operational, it is expected to cover eight sectors: power; iron and steel; non-ferrous metals, such as aluminum; chemicals; petro-chemicals; paper; building materials; and civil aviation. Designed to encompass as much as 40 percent of the nation’s total emissions, the program aims to be more than twice the size of the European Union’s emissions trading scheme.

Efforts to Replace the Clean Power Plan Underway

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking for the Clean Power Plan Monday, asking the public to comment on what a replacement rule might look like. In October, the Trump administration proposed repealing the Obama-era rule, which sets state-by-state carbon reduction targets for power plants.

“EPA is considering proposing emission guidelines to limit greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from existing electric utility generating units (EGUs) and is soliciting information on the proper respective roles of the state and federal governments in that process, as well as information on systems of emission reduction that are applicable at or to an existing EGU, information on compliance measures, and information on state planning requirements under the Clean Air Act (CAA),” the notice reads.

The notice followed an announcement Friday that the EPA plans to terminate the rule in 10 months. The agency has suggested that it could have a replacement by October 2018. The news came as part of a broader Trump administration agenda to retract many environmental and other regulations.

Studies Strengthen Link between Human-Caused Climate Change and Some Extreme Weather

On the heels of an announcement by the Trump administration that climate change would be removed from the list of national security threats, new studies are pointing to further connections between global warming caused by human activities and past extreme weather events such as heat, drought, flooding and wildfire outbreaks.

A United Kingdom Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU) analysis of 59 studies published in the last two years examined the influence of climate change on extreme weather. It suggests that warming worsened that weather in 70 percent of cases.

A separate group of studies published last week in Explaining Extreme Events in 2016 from a Climate Perspective, a special supplement to the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society (BAMS), analyzed 27 extreme weather events from 2016, the hottest year in recorded history, and found that human-caused climate change was a “significant driver” for 21 of them.

Many of the BAMS studies found a strong likelihood of a human influence on extreme weather events but stopped short of saying they were outside the realm of natural variability, and not all of the studies linked 2016’s extreme events to human activity.

But it’s the first time in BAMS history that scientists have found some events that could not have occurred in the absence of global warming. According to the new reports, the three definitively human-caused extreme events in 2016 were the overall global temperature increase; record heat in Asia; and marine hot spots in the Gulf of Alaska, Bering Sea (where a mass of warm ocean water has been dubbed “the Blob”) and off the coast of northern Australia.

“For years, scientists have known humans are changing the risk of some extremes,” said Jeff Rosenfeld, BAMS editor in chief (subscription). “But finding multiple extreme events that weren’t even possible without human influence makes clear that we’re experiencing new weather, because we’ve made a new climate.”

 

The Climate Post offers a rundown of the week in climate and energy news. It is produced each Thursday by Duke University’s Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions.

The Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions at Duke University

A major study modeled after goal-setting reports from the Departments of Defense and State, the first Quadrennial Technology Review by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), called for a shift in energy research and development priorities to reduce America’s dependence on oil.

“Reliance on oil is the greatest immediate threat to U.S. economic and national security and also contributes to the long-term threat of climate change,” the report said.

The DOE spends about $3 billion annually on research and development, with about three-quarters of that going toward “stationary energy” technologies—such as power plants and buildings—and one-quarter allotted for transportation. The report’s release could shift the funding balance more toward transportation, in particular more efficient cars and electric cars.

It will likely shape the 2013 fiscal year budget request from the Obama administration, due to be sent to Congress in February 2012.

Big Dreams

But a longer-term view isn’t synonymous with funding blue-sky ideas, as in the DOE’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E), which Time dubbed “the Department of Big Dreams.” The Quadrennial Technology Review criticized the DOE for placing too much emphasis on technologies “multiple generations away from practical use.”

Instead, the report called for greater focus on integrated energy systems and deployment over the medium to long term. The Obama administration has no choice but to focus on the longer term, argued Jeff Tollefson of Nature, because the weak economy and political stalemates have stymied progress in the shorter term.

The report sticks close to President Obama’s goals: getting one million electric cars on the road by 2015 and cutting oil imports by one-third by 2025. It also focuses on modernizing the electric grid and deploying clean energy, in line with Obama’s goal for 80 percent for America’s electricity to come from clean sources by 2035.

Carbon Credit Controversy

WikiLeaks has once again stirred up controversy, this time by releasing a diplomatic cable sent by the U.S. embassy in India, revealing discussions about questionable projects there that earn carbon credits through the United Nation’s Clean Development Mechanism (CDM).

Most of the CDM projects in India should not have been certified, the cable said, because they did not achieve emissions cuts beyond what would have happened without the sales of carbon credits.

The cable shows “the CDM is basically a farce,” said a group critical of the program, but officials involved in the program said it has been improved since the cable was sent in 2008.

However, an investigative series last year by the Christian Science Monitor found many instances of fraud and exaggeration. And last week Oxfam published a report alleging 20,000 people were evicted from their land in 2010 to make way for a tree plantation that would earn carbon credits.

Superconductor Espionage

American Superconductor, which designs magnet systems for wind turbines, alleges that Chinese turbine manufacturer Sinovel, its largest customer, stole trade secrets by bribing a disgruntled employee, one of a handful with access to a crucial bit of software.

A court in Austria is hearing the case, in which Sinovel stands accused of offering the rogue employee an employment contract worth at least $1 million. The employee only received a small fraction of what he was promised, and American Superconductor sent Sinovel many parts also without receiving payment.

Sen. John Kerry said such theft would hurt American investment in China.

Master of the Domain

With the internet opening to new domains, there has been a tussle over who will control the .eco domain, with Al Gore’s Alliance for Climate Protection vying against the Canadian company Big Room, supported by former Soviet leader Michel Gorbachev’s charity Green Cross International.

Al Gore’s group has dropped its bid, after many green groups—including 350.org, Greenpeace, and WWF—backed Green Cross International. The new domain is intended to be a badge of credibility, said the co-founder of Big Room, and may require disclosure about environmental performance when registering to use the domain.

The Climate Post offers a rundown of the week in climate and energy news. It is produced each Thursday by Duke University’s Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions.