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Marching forward: China is creating the world’s largest market-based carbon pricing system

Vikram Widge's picture
China – the world largest emitter of greenhouse gases – is implementing a national carbon market in 2017

During his visit to Washington last week, China’s President Xi Jinping confirmed that the world’s largest greenhouse gas emitter, which has pledged to reduce its carbon intensity and reach a peak of overall emissions by 2030, will use a cap-and-trade market approach to help realize this. 
China already has 7 pilot markets in cities and provinces in place that cover 1 billion tons of greenhouse gas emissions annually. Under the national scheme, now to go live in 2017, this could increase to 4 billion tons according to Chinese researchers - making it the world’s largest national emissions trading system.

It’s an exciting step and demonstration of China’s commitment to achieve its low carbon goals. 

Faster track to better carbon prices

Grzegorz Peszko's picture
Carbon pricing instruments implemented or scheduled for implementation,
with sectoral coverage and GHG emissions covered.

​Many of my compatriots in Poland, where over 90 percent of power generation comes from burning coal, are concerned that the EU climate policy is a risky outlier.

​They worry that the EU Emissions Trading System may expose domestic industry to unfair competitition and cause companies to move production to countries where emission costs are lower, something called “leakage”.

The two reports recently released by the World Bank may change this perception.

Putting a price on carbon, one jurisdiction at a time

Thomas Kerr's picture
CPLC Design Meeting at World Bank Group Headquarters
Credits: Max Thabiso Edkins

This week, the World Bank Group released the latest version of our annual State and Trends of Carbon Pricing report. It reports that today,39 nations and 23 cities, states or regions are using a carbon price.

​This represents the equivalent of about 7 billion tons of carbon dioxide, or 12 percent of annual global greenhouse gas emissions.

Emissions trading in China: Early lessons from low-carbon pilots

Lasse Ringius's picture


A local emissions exchange in China. Lasse Ringius/IFC
A local emissions exchange in China. Photo: Lasse Ringius/IFC


China, the biggest source of CO2 emissions globally, accounts for more than 27 percent of the world's emissions. China is the first developing country to control CO2 emissions through a cap-and-trade system. Once a national carbon market is established, which could be as early as 2017, China will overtake the European Union (EU) to become the biggest carbon market in the world. The Chinese market will significantly alter the balance of power in global carbon markets in the mid-term. Significant challenges remain, and the IFC, a member of the World Bank Group, is helping China to overcome them with a project in Shenzhen that addresses key barriers to carbon trading.

Fundamentals of Emissions Markets

Once a liquid carbon market has been created, trading will mostly happen via forward and futures contracts. These instruments help companies to protect themselves against volatile prices and to hedge their carbon position. In the EU, exchange platforms emerged as one of the main mechanisms aimed at simplifying transactions, reducing risk and facilitating transparent pricing. As trading platforms, exchanges can facilitate price discovery and offer hedging products.

The financial sector and financial institutions (FI) play a fundamentally important role in an emissions trading system. It is to be expected that most companies in China will trade with the help of intermediaries; only large emitters will trade directly at an exchange. Thus, FIs will be in a position to offer trading-related services, as well as advisory products, to clients subject to mandatory CO2 regulation.

Thinking globally: Local governments leading the way to a global climate solution

Thomas Kerr's picture
California wind power. Bryan Siders/Creative Commons

The Canadian Province of Ontario announced last month that it would join California and Quebec in linking their cap-and-trade programs to curb greenhouse gas emissions. The move was met with approval by carbon market watchers, as local governments showed how they could avoid the lengthy political battles sometimes faced by national governments preparing submissions to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

At a time when governments are looking for ambition, could this sort of local government action be the start of something much bigger?

Last week, I attended the Navigating the American Carbon World (NACW) event in Los Angeles to explore whether the momentum we are seeing to price carbon is evident on the ground. I found a lot of local government leadership on climate change.

Climate finance: The public sector can't do this alone

Christian Grossmann's picture
A World Economic Forum event at COP20 brought together public and private sector leaders to discuss carbon pricing. Carlos Molina/World Bank
A discussion on carbon pricing at COP20 brought together executives from Unilever, pension fund AP4, and the BVRio Environmental Exchange, and officials from California, South Korea, and the World Bank Group. Carlos Molina/World Bank

​We’re doing a lot of talking and listening here at COP 20 in Lima about climate finance – how hundreds of billions of dollars were invested globally last year to clean up the air, get efficient energy to more people, make agriculture more productive, and build resilience to extreme weather events.

We all know and acknowledge much more still needs to be done – the International Energy Agency and others believe we need at least $1 trillion dollars of new investment each year to address climate change.

There’s no way that public money alone can meet that goal. We need to find ways to catalyze the limited public funds we have to unlock private investment. That, of course, means investors need to have the confidence that the right policies are in place to make long-term investments for the climate.

Behind the numbers: China-U.S. climate announcement's implications for China’s development pathway

Xueman Wang's picture
Solar cell manufacturing in China

The past five weeks have given us what may be defining moments on the road to a Paris agreement that will lay a foundation for a future climate regime.

  • On October 23, European Union leaders committed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 40 percent by 2030 and increase energy efficiency and renewable energy use by at least 27 percent by 2030.
  • On November 12, during the APEC Summit in Beijing, Chinese President Xi Jinping and United States President Barack Obama jointly announced their post-2020 climate mitigation targets: China intends to achieve peak CO2 emissions around 2030, with best efforts to peak as early as possible, and increase its non-fossil fuel share of all energy to 20 percent by 2030; and the U.S. agreed to cut emissions by 26-28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025.
  • On November 20, at the donor conference in Berlin, led by the U.S., Germany, and others, donors pledged about US$9.3 billion to the Green Climate Fund (GCF).

China’s announcement in particular is considered by many to be a game changer. China, the world’s biggest emitter with its emissions accounting for more than 27 percent of the global emissions, is setting an example for other major developing countries to put forward quantifiable emission targets. The announcement will hopefully also brush away the “China excuse,” used by some developed countries that have avoided commitments on the grounds that China was not part of action under the Kyoto targets.

Carbon pricing – delivering economic & climate benefits

Thomas Kerr's picture


A dangerously warming planet is not just an environmental challenge – it is a fundamental threat to efforts to end poverty, and it threatens to put prosperity out of the reach of millions of people.  Read the recent Fifth Assessment Report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change if you need further evidence.

If we agree it is an economic problem, what do we do about it?  There is general agreement among economists that a robust price on carbon is a key part of effective strategies to avert dangerous climate change. A strong price signal directs finance away from fossil fuels and toward a suite of cleaner, more efficient alternatives.

This logic is not lost on governments and companies.  Momentum is building around the globe to put a price on carbon.  Consider these facts:

Adding up the Local Benefits of Climate-Smart Development

Sameer Akbar's picture

Authors Sameer Akbar | Gary Kleiman

Adding Up the Benefits report

​When President Barack Obama announced that the United States would cut CO2 emissions from its coal power plants by 30 percent below 2005 levels by 2030, he didn’t just talk about climate change – he was equally forceful about the local benefits that the regulations could bring.  He stressed that those regulations would reduce pollutants that contribute to soot and smog by over 25 percent, reductions that could avoid up to 6,600 premature deaths and 150,000 asthma attacks in children; and that the regulations would build jobs, benefit the economy, and be good for the climate. 

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the plan will cost up to $8.8 billion annually but bring climate and health benefits of up to $93 billion per year by 2030. The economic case for the proposed regulation speaks for itself.

Demonstrating the value of multiple benefits that result from many policies and projects can provide a compelling economic rationale for action. It can speak to broad constituencies, local and global, and demonstrate the climate-smart nature of good development. A new report prepared by the World Bank in partnership with the ClimateWorks Foundation – Climate Smart Development: Adding up the benefits of actions that help build prosperity, end poverty and combat climate change – sets out to do just that.

Carbon Bubbles & Stranded Assets

Vladimir Stenek's picture
Also available in: العربية | Español | 中文


Packing an extraordinary amount of energy in little space, fossil fuels helped propel human development to levels undreamed of before the Industrial Revolution, from synthesizing fertilizers to powering space flight. But alongside energy, they produce health-damaging air pollutants and greenhouse gases.

Today, greenhouse gas emissions are higher than at any time in at least 800,000 years and rising, causing climate changes that threaten to reverse decades of development gains. Disruption of livelihoods, loss of food security, loss of marine and coastal ecosystems, breakdown of infrastructure, threats to global security: these are just a few of the risks identified in recent scientific reports.

In the absence of technology to permanently remove greenhouse gases and restore atmospheric concentration to safe levels, there is only one realistic solution: limiting additional emissions. It is estimated that to avoid the most damaging effects of climate change, over the next few decades we can at most emit a quantity equal to about 20 percent of total proven fossil fuel reserves.

Given fossil fuels’ omnipresence in our economies and lives, leaving them in the ground will have important implications, starting with the value of the very assets.