Discussion Paper

Assessing the Design of Three Pilot Programs for Carbon Trading in China

Oct 16, 2014 | Clayton Munnings, Richard D. Morgenstern, Zhongmin Wang, Xu Liu


China started seven carbon cap-and-trade pilot programs in order to inform the development of a future national cap-and-trade market. This paper assesses the design of three of the longer-running cap-and-trade pilot programs in Guangdong, Shanghai and Shenzhen. Based on extensive stakeholder interviews and a detailed literature review we formulate a series of recommendations to improve the design of these three pilots, including: strengthening the legal foundations for the cap-and-trade pilots, incorporating achievement of goals established by the cap-and-trade pilots into the performance reviews of participating government officials and executives of state-owned entities, further clarifying the cap-setting process, increasing the transparency of the cap, reducing or eliminating within-compliance period adjustments to enterprise-level allowance allocation, gradually moving away from free allocation toward auctioning, reforming enforcement policy, and adopting a symmetric safety valve to manage prices. By making these recommendations, we hope to shed light on ways that Chinese regulators might adapt cap and trade, a fundamentally market-based tool, to China's economy that has many non-market features.