Carbon Credits Trading in China

Carbon credits trading can help Shanghai expats contribute to going carbon neutral.

In 2013-2014, the Chinese government started the regional pilot carbon emissions trading schemes (ETSs) in seven provinces and cities, with Shanghai being one of the early movers.

In these schemes, polluters such as steel, petrochemical, textile, and rubber industries, as well as airports, railways, ports, big banks and hotels are getting capped and cannot emit more carbon dioxide if they do not have the according allowances.

If they want to pollute more because their business is growing, then they must buy extra allowances, so pollution gets a price tag and is limited by the absolute cap.

Great experience has been learned from these pilot schemes and provide the basis for the China nationwide carbon market set to launch at the end of 2017.


Under the regional schemes, a certain amount (5 percent for Shanghai) of the allowances can be obtained from so-called CCER (Chinese Certified Emission Reductions) registered projects, such as hydro power or wind farms.

Each CCER credit equals one ton of carbon dioxide that has been reduced somewhere else by a registered CCER project.

For example, if a project developer replaces one coal-fired power plant with a new wind farm, then the emissions reduction can be sold to a polluter and the wind farm is getting financed in this way.

The pollution will not exceed the determined cap, and the absolute cap will regularly be reduced, to make sure in the long term the carbon emissions will head towards zero.

The local Development and Reform Committee is in charge of allocation of the allowances, while the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) takes care for the registration of CCER projects.

The allowances are traded, for example on the Shanghai Environment and Energy Exchange, and the price for pollution gets determined on this market.

China is World's Second-largest Carbon Credits Trading market

By May 23, 2014, based on these pilot trading schemes, China had already become the world's second largest carbon credits trading market after only the EU.

China's Nation Wide Carbon Credits Trading Scheme

In 2014 officials in China's National Development and Reform Commission stated plans to establish a full nation wide carbon emissions trading market by 2017. This commitment was officially announced by the Chinese President, Xi Jinping, during his visit to the United States in September 2015.

The system will cover key industrial sectors such as cement, power generation, and steel; as well as give preference to renewable forms of energy entering the grid. 

Chinese carbon emitters were given a deadline of June 30, 2016 to submit their historical emissions data in order for this national scheme to be developed.

This followed on China's pledge to cap carbon dioxide emissions around 2030 or earlier as part of the joint China-US climate agreement reached in November 2014. 

Shanghai Carbon Trading

How Shanghai expats can play a part in going Carbon neutral

However, the ETSs driven by the government only cover 36 percent of Shanghai’s total emissions, and everyone in Shanghai is personally responsible for the remaining 64 percent.

Fortunately, there is an approach for personal carbon emissions trading, called the Carbon Neutral Scheme, by which you can offset your daily emissions by supporting environmental friendly projects like renewable energy.

These projects are certified by independent third parties (accredited by the United Nations).

Shanghai expats can buy carbon credits using the Carbon Footprint APP by Emissions Zero, which is available in both English and Chinese.

With this app you can easily calculate your personal carbon emissions from your daily activities (transport including local and long-distance, electricity and gas including air conditioner and refrigerator, etc.).

You can then purchase carbon offsets from China based projects and get the serial number of the credits you bought to compensate your daily carbon emissions in Shanghai (an Alipay account is required for purchasing credits). Moreover, you can get a certificate and an introduction of the project you supported.

Supporting Carbon Neutral companies and organizations in Shanghai

And we can go even further: we can buy carbon neutral products and services from suppliers such as Ups coffee located in Shanghai's famous Tianzifang tourist street.

Ups Coffee neutralized their carbon emissions through Emissions Zero and received this certificate:

Carbon Credits Trading China

Other companies and organizations that have worked with Emissions Zero to neutralize their carbon emissions, and get certified include the Shanghai Drama Art Center, and the China Business Network for their CSR Ranking in China campaign.

Daily actions Shanghai expats can take to go carbon neutral

If we spread the word and more people participate, Shanghai can get carbon neutral and all the necessary change from old fashioned fossil combustion to modern renewable energy, from dusty car to clean electric vehicle, from polluting industry to sustainable manufacturers can be financed.

I don't say it is easy or will happen quickly, but it is up to you and me to take the first step.

Everybody can do this every day, we must not wait for politics and new regulations (of course, it would be helpful if the government could enforce required action).

For example, we can commute by using the subway, train and bicycle instead of cars (avoiding carbon dioxide, nitride oxides, black carbon and all the road dust from wheel and brake abrasion) or we can reduce air conditioning (do we really need such cold room temperature in summer?), thereby reducing the need for burning coal for electricity production.

As you can see there are plenty of ways you can live your life more sustainable. You can also encourage others to follow.

You may say this is just a drop in the ocean. Yes, that’s true but SOMEONE must do SOMETHING, because everybody is affected by the Shanghai haze and resulting health problems without exception (including you and me).

About the Author

Dr. Sven Kolmetz is the Technical Director of Climate Bridge Ltd.

Climate Bridge is a leader in global carbon credits trading, having developed more than 200 carbon emissions reduction projects and traded more than 10 million carbon credits.

Climate Bridge is also active in China’s pilot carbon credits trading scheme. By organizing trainings, publishing the quarterly newsletter Bridge to China's Carbon Market, developing and trading CCER projects, Climate Bridge is trying to BRIDGE its global experience, and expertise to help in the development of China's nascent Carbon trading market.

To learn more about Climate Bridge visit their website at

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