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Challenges to the development of carbon markets in China


  • Alex Y. Lo


China has introduced several pilot emission trading schemes to build the basis for a national scheme. The potential scale of this initiative raises prospects for a regional carbon trading network as a way to further engage other major Asian economies. However, the Chinese carbon markets rest upon a unique political-economic context and institutional environment that are likely to limit their development and viability. This article offers an overview of such structural economic and political constraints. Four main challenges are identified, namely, inadequate domestic demand, limited financial involvement, incomplete regulatory infrastructure, and excessive government intervention. The first two challenges concern economic dimensions and may be partially addressed by the incentives created by the newly introduced emission trading schemes. The other two are more deeply entrenched in the dominant political system and governing practice. They require fundamental changes to the ways in which the state and the market interact. The success of China's carbon market reform depends crucially on the ability of the ongoing efforts to transform the distorted state--market relationship. Policy relevance The burgeoning carbon markets offer opportunities for emissions mitigation at lower costs and enable circulation of a new form of capital, i.e. carbon credits, across borders. China accounts for a gigantic share of global GHG emissions and has the potential to significantly scale up these opportunities. There are clear implications for market developers and participants worldwide, including climate policy makers who attempt to link their emission trading schemes to other schemes, firms who seek to take advantage of the inexpensive carbon offsets generated in developing countries, international financial institutions who endeavour to establish their business in an emerging major carbon market, etc. This article can inform their decisions by identifying key issues that may undermine their ability to achieve these goals. Policy makers and stakeholders will benefit from this analysis, which shows how the Chinese carbon markets operate in ways that may be different from their experience elsewhere.

Suggested Citation

  • Alex Y. Lo, 2016. "Challenges to the development of carbon markets in China," Climate Policy, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 16(1), pages 109-124, January.
  • Handle: RePEc:taf:tcpoxx:v:16:y:2016:i:1:p:109-124
    DOI: 10.1080/14693062.2014.991907

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. repec:dau:papers:123456789/10174 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Jotzo, Frank & de Boer, Dimitri & Kater, Hugh, 2013. "China Carbon Pricing Survey 2013," Working Papers 249409, Australian National University, Centre for Climate Economics & Policy.
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    3. Chang, Chia-Lin & Mai, Te-Ke & McAleer, Michael, 2019. "Establishing national carbon emission prices for China," Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, Elsevier, vol. 106(C), pages 1-16.
    4. Yinpeng Zhang & Zhixin Liu & Yingying Xu, 2018. "Carbon price volatility: The case of China," PLOS ONE, Public Library of Science, vol. 13(10), pages 1-15, October.
    5. Wenjun Chu & Shanglei Chai & Xi Chen & Mo Du, 2020. "Does the Impact of Carbon Price Determinants Change with the Different Quantiles of Carbon Prices? Evidence from China ETS Pilots," Sustainability, MDPI, vol. 12(14), pages 1-19, July.
    6. Sebastian Levi & Christian Flachsland & Michael Jakob, 2020. "Political Economy Determinants of Carbon Pricing," Global Environmental Politics, MIT Press, vol. 20(2), pages 128-156, May.
    7. Lo, Alex Y & Mai, Lindsay Qianqing & Lee, Anna Ka-yin & Francesch-Huidobro, Maria & Pei, Qing & Cong, Ren & Chen, Kang, 2018. "Towards network governance? The case of emission trading in Guangdong, China," Land Use Policy, Elsevier, vol. 75(C), pages 538-548.
    8. Lyu, Chenyan, 2021. "Regional Carbon Markets in China: Cointegration and Heterogeneity," Working Papers 13-2021, Copenhagen Business School, Department of Economics.
    9. Xu, Lin & Wu, Chenyang & Qin, Quande & Lin, Xiaoying, 2022. "Spillover effects and nonlinear correlations between carbon emissions and stock markets: An empirical analysis of China's carbon-intensive industries," Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 111(C).
    10. Quande Qin & Huangda He & Li Li & Ling-Yun He, 2020. "A Novel Decomposition-Ensemble Based Carbon Price Forecasting Model Integrated with Local Polynomial Prediction," Computational Economics, Springer;Society for Computational Economics, vol. 55(4), pages 1249-1273, April.
    11. Xu, Xiaofeng & Cui, Xiaodan & Chen, Xiangyu & Zhou, Yichen, 2022. "Impact of government subsidies on the innovation performance of the photovoltaic industry: Based on the moderating effect of carbon trading prices," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 170(C).
    12. Heng Zhang & Ziwei Zhang & Keyuan Sun & Yutong Zou, 2023. "Emission Reduction Effect, Influencing Factors and Economic Impact of China’s Carbon Market: An Empirical Test Based on a Multi-Period DID Model," SAGE Open, , vol. 13(4), pages 21582440231, November.
    13. Wang, Xu & Zhu, Lei & Liu, Pengfei, 2021. "Manipulation via endowments: Quantifying the influence of market power on the emission trading scheme," Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 103(C).
    14. Lo, Alex Y. & Chen, Kang, 2020. "Business participation in the development of a Chinese emission trading scheme," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 140(C).
    15. Qi, Xiaoyuan & Han, Ying, 2023. "Research on the evolutionary strategy of carbon market under “dual carbon” goal: From the perspective of dynamic quota allocation," Energy, Elsevier, vol. 274(C).
    16. Feng Xiong & Xiaoyu Zeng & Yi (Fionna) Xie & Yan Li, 2022. "Design (Allocation) of a Carbon Emission System—A Lesson from Power Restrictions in Zhejiang, China," Sustainability, MDPI, vol. 14(19), pages 1-31, September.
    17. Guilhot, Laëtitia, 2022. "An analysis of China's energy policy from 1981 to 2020: Transitioning towards to a diversified and low-carbon energy system," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 162(C).
    18. Tracey Dodd & Tim Nelson, 2019. "Trials and tribulations of market responses to climate change: Insight through the transformation of the Australian electricity market," Australian Journal of Management, Australian School of Business, vol. 44(4), pages 614-631, November.
    19. Liu, Lirong & Huang, Guohe & Baetz, Brian & Guan, Yuru & Zhang, Kaiqiang, 2020. "Multi-Dimensional Hypothetical Fuzzy Risk Simulation model for Greenhouse Gas mitigation policy development," Applied Energy, Elsevier, vol. 261(C).
    20. Yichuan Tian, 2023. "Does Environmental Attention by Governments Promote Carbon Reductions," Papers 2306.13436,
    21. Qian Wang & Cuiyun Gao & Shuanping Dai, 2019. "Effect of the Emissions Trading Scheme on CO 2 Abatement in China," Sustainability, MDPI, vol. 11(4), pages 1-13, February.
    22. Yin, Jiuli & Zhu, Yan & Fan, Xinghua, 2021. "Correlation analysis of China’s carbon market and coal market based on multi-scale entropy," Resources Policy, Elsevier, vol. 72(C).

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