China has taken another step toward solidifying its status as the global leader on climate change, revealing on Tuesday an initiative to create the world's largest carbon market. The plan will be central to achieving the country's goal of beginning to reduce emissions by 2030.
China first said in 2015 that it would create a national carbon market ahead of the negotiations that ultimately yielded the Paris Agreement on climate change. That announcement—made by Chinese President Xi Jinping as he stood beside then-President Obama—was a signal that the world’s two largest economies and polluters were unified in their commitment to addressing the issue. Climate policy experts say those pledges helped seal the global deal targeting greenhouse gas emissions.
Nat Keohane, head of the Global Climate program at the Environmental Defense Fund, praised the announcement and said China coming fully on board is "the Mount Everest of climate policy."
The United States, on the other hand, has wandered farther away from where the Obama administration was taking the country with regard to climate change policy:
Many countries, including China, understand that fossil fuels are not a path to future growth and are preparing embrace new markets in clean energy technology. A Chinese exit from the coal market has the potential to devastate the global industry, leaving few viable options but to embrace clean energy.
When that happens, China is prepared to supply the world with clean energy technology like solar panels and lithium ion batteries that it manufactures domestically thanks to billions in investment from the national government.