The draft New Measure aims to enhance the environmental integrity of China’s carbon market by introducing new requirements for project registration and credit issuance.

By Paul A. Davies, Jean-Philippe Brisson, Michael Dreibelbis, and Qingyi Pan

China is preparing to relaunch its carbon credits program, the Chinese Certified Emission Reduction (CCER) Scheme, after suspending the program for over six years. On July 7, 2023, the Ministry of Ecology and Environment (MEE) and the State Administration for Market Regulation (SAMR) of the People’s Republic of China jointly released the draft Measure for the Administration of Voluntary Emission Reduction Trading (the New Measure).

The public consultation for the draft New Measure ended on August 6, 2023, and on September 15, 2023, the MEE ministry conference reviewed and passed the New Measure in principle. The formal release is expected to happen in October 2023, upon which the New Measure would replace the previous set of rules and become the governing law of the CCER Scheme.

Together with the national emission trading scheme (the China ETS) launched two years ago, the CCER Scheme represents China’s continuous efforts towards adopting market-based mechanisms for achieving its climate pledges (peaking emissions before 2030 and reaching carbon neutrality before 2060).[i]

The start of trading represents a significant opportunity for businesses able to achieve meaningful reductions.

By Paul A. Davies and R. Andrew Westgate

Nearly four years after China’s national emissions trading scheme (ETS) was announced in late 2017, trading of emissions quotas officially commenced on July 16. The start of trading represents a significant step in China’s adoption of market-based mechanisms for addressing climate change, while also signifying a major opportunity for businesses able to achieve meaningful reductions.

More than 4.1 million tonnes of Chinese Carbon Emission Allowances (CEAs) traded on the first day at a price of RMB52.78 (or US$7.42) per tonne — an amount that was in line with analysts’ expectations for launch. Although this price is significantly below the prices of allowances in the EU ETS (€52.89 per tonne on July 16) or California (US$18.80 per tonne at the May 2021 auction), it is close to the allowance price in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) — a cap-and-trade program covering 11 states on the east coast of the United States (US$7.97 per tonne at the auction held on June 2, 2021). Like China’s ETS in its initial phase, the RGGI covers only power plants. Since the launch, prices have largely held steady, although volume fell significantly after the initial flurry of activity.

The People’s Bank of China announced a collaboration with the European Union to adopt a common taxonomy for green investments.

By Paul A. Davies, Nicola Higgs, and Edward R. Kempson

On 21 March 2021, the People’s Bank of China (PBC) announced that China is working with the European Union to adopt a common green taxonomy across the two markets later this year. PBC Governor Yi Gang, speaking at the China Development Forum, said strengthening the nation’s green finance system was the central bank’s priority for the next five years.[1] He emphasised that, in order for China to meet its 30/60 goal of peaking carbon emissions by 2030 and achieving carbon neutrality by 2060, China needs to engage in collaboration with global partners.

The EU Taxonomy Regulation,[2] which entered into force in July 2020 and will take effect on a phased basis from 1 January 2022, is one of the most significant developments in sustainable finance to date. It creates a classification system for environmentally sustainable economic activities and aims to provide clarity as to what should be considered “green”. The EU Taxonomy Regulation is intended to avoid issues of greenwashing and is considered to be an important tool in implementing the Paris Agreement climate goals. For more details on the EU Taxonomy Regulation, please refer to our blog post on the topic.

New trade arrangement incentivizes power operators to be more energy-efficient.

By Paul A. Davies, R. Andrew Westgate, Qingyi Pan, and Jacqueline J. Yap

On January 1, 2021, the long-awaited China Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) commenced operation, with 2,225 coal-fired power plants participating. Under this new ETS, China’s power operators will have to buy emissions permits if their coal plant exceeds carbon intensity benchmarks, giving power operators an incentive to improve efficiency. Since 2011, China has developed pilot emissions trading platforms in nine cities and provinces, paving the way for a national trading scheme that was first announced in 2017, along with an emissions trading market development plan for the power generation sector. After almost four years of development, the first annual compliance cycle officially began on January 1. China’s Ministry of Ecology and Environment (MEE) has published several policy documents on the national ETS that establish regulatory authority and specify general rules for key areas of market operation and design, including the Carbon Emissions Rights Trading Regulations (Trial), which was published in November 2020.

The Chinese Communist Party’s policy plans include an increased focus on climate change and a more open trade environment.

By Paul Davies, Ethan Prall and Andrew Westgate

The Central Committee, the top-level authority of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), recently concluded its Fifth Plenary Session and created China’s 14th Five Year Plan (the Plan). The Five Year Plan is the primary policy document for the CCP, covering a variety of social, economic, and foreign policy topics, and effectively serving as the CCP’s political platform. The Fifth Plenary was attended by 198 members of the Central Committee, including President Xi Jinping in his role as General Secretary of the Central Committee (his most important title). The full text of the new Plan is not yet public, but a communique summarizing the discussions at the Plenary has been released (Chinese version only). The communique indicates that the CCP will continue its focus on developing environmental governance policies through 2025, and the party will also prioritize aggressive climate policies aimed at reaching the 2060 carbon neutrality target recently announced by President Xi.

President Xi Jinping promises to reduce carbon emissions in speech before the UN General Assembly.

By Paul A. Davies, Michael D. Green, R. Andrew Westgate, and Jacqueline J. Yap

On 22 September 2020, during a speech before the UN General Assembly, President Xi Jinping announced China’s commitment to become carbon neutral by 2060 and reaffirmed China’s commitment under the Paris Agreement to peak its carbon emissions by 2030. China is the world’s largest greenhouse gas (GHG) polluter and emitted approximately 10 billion tons of carbon dioxide in 2018, according to the Global Carbon Project. Given this, China’s commitment to become carbon neutral by 2060 would significantly reduce global GHG emissions and set the stage for China’s development of a green economy.

MEE declares full steam ahead on China’s environmental initiatives, including an NGDF, private sector finance, Yangtze River conservation, and the social credit system.

By Paul A. Davies and Zoe Liu

Xu Bijiu, director general of the general office of China’s Ministry of Ecology and Environment (MEE), has given the clearest signal to date that China’s environmental ambitions will not be impeded by the projected slowdown of the Chinese economy.

Dismissing suggestions that increased environmental protection had led to downward pressures on the economy in recent years, Xu stated that China has, in fact, benefitted from a “harmonious, win-win relationship” between economic development and increased environmental protection. Xu confirmed that the pollution targets MEE set last year for the end of 2020 would not be altered, despite the fact that some areas of the country (such as Hunan in south-central China) missed their PM 2.5 air quality targets in 2019.

MEE Opinions aim to clarify application of laws, expand the scope of illegal behaviour, and introduce new administrative penalties.

By Paul A. Davies and R. Andrew Westgate

The Department of Laws, Regulations, and Standards of China’s Ministry of Ecology and Environment (MEE) recently issued a notice of Public Consultation for the Opinions on Several Issues on the Application of Laws concerning Administrative Penalties for the Illegal Activities of “Production before Final Acceptance” (the 2019 Public Consultation).

This blog will discuss the background to the 2019 Public Consultation, and the MEE Opinions that aim to clarify application of laws, expand the scope of illegal behavior, and introduce new Administrative Penalties.

China continues to implement an IT-based big data system of market regulation that rewards and punishes individuals and enterprises.

By Paul A. Davies and R. Andrew Westgate

China is currently implementing an innovative approach to monitoring, rating, and regulating the behaviour of market participants through a new “social credit system” (SCS) set forth in the Plan for Establishing a Social Credit System (the Plan). The Plan, first published in 2014, applies credit ratings across social, political, and environmental sectors. For example, a company breaching emissions targets will receive a lower rating (resulting in punitive measures, higher taxes, or other sanctions).

The Plan aims to implement a self-enforcing mechanism for regulation built on big data that monitors and evaluates economic and social behaviour using real-time feedback. The system is designed to incentivise companies to make decisions in line with laws, regulations, and governmental policy targets.

This blog will focus on the application of the SCS to environmental matters.