Why China is at the center of our climate strategy

A giant leap forward: EDF advises China on the launch of its national carbon market.

As the United States steps away from global climate leadership, China is stepping up. EDF has been working there for more than 25 years, and now we're helping the Chinese government launch a national system to control climate pollution.

China's enormous carbon footprint

  • 1/2 of the world's coal supply is burned by China each year
  • Over 25%of the world's climate pollution originates in China

A giant leap forward

Fortunately, China is serious about climate action. The nation of 1.4 billion — the world's most populous and number one greenhouse gas emitter — took a giant leap forward and launched its national carbon market in December 2017.

The national carbon market reflects experiences and lessons learned from a series of pilot projects that EDF helped design, using a proven market-based solution to tackle global warming at a critical time.

Initially, the national carbon market will cover the power sector, representing more than 2,000 (mostly state-owned) companies that are responsible for roughly one-third of China’s total carbon emissions (3.5 billion metric tons), making it the world’s biggest carbon market.

After 2020, the national carbon market is expected to gradually scale up to cover as many as 7,000 companies in eight industrial sectors (power, petrochemical, chemical, building materials, iron and steel, nonferrous metals, paper production, and aviation). The eventual eight-sector national carbon market would encompass more than 9 percent of 2017 global emissions, which would exceed current world totals under all national carbon market systems and bring the share of global emissions covered by carbon pricing to at least 21 percent.

Projected CO2 emissions under current policies (chart)

EDF's long history with China

Over the past two decades, EDF has helped China establish a variety of market-based incentives to cut emissions and strengthen enforcement of environmental laws.

These projects are part of the reason that EDF has served as an advisor on China's highest international advisory body on the environment, which reports directly to the Premier every year.

Successes we've helped with

  • 3,600government and industrial stakeholders trained on carbon emissions trading
  • 58,000environmental officers trained to date
  • 1 milliontons of greenhouse gases verifiably reduced via low-carbon farming

An urgent opportunity

The nation is still rapidly transitioning from rural to urban. In 15 years, about 250 million more people will likely move to cities and use twice as much energy than in the countryside.

The government has asked for our input on new environmental policies and programs in their next five-year plan. We're ready to help with many projects, including:

  • Operating an effective national carbon trading program
  • Expanding the use of renewable energy
  • Strengthening environmental enforcement
  • Improving energy efficiency in major sectors
  • Enhancing energy modeling and analysis capacity to inform policy making

EDF is helping China develop infrastructure and policies to shift the economy toward a low-carbon future.

Dr. Zhang Jianyu
Dr. Zhang Jianyu
Founder, former chief representative and VP, EDF China Program

By welcoming EDF's expertise and launching its national carbon market, China is proving that it's ready to tackle climate change.

Your support keeps our staff of experts on the ground in China, working closely with environmental leaders and policy makers. Together, we're implementing smart market incentives to fight air pollution and climate change.


Chart and statistics source: EDF data, and EDF analysis of International Energy Agency, U.S. Energy Information Administration and EPA data