At a time when there are considerable political challenges in some countries (such as my own!) for national governments to institute meaningful climate change policies, the potential role of sub-national policies becomes more important than otherwise. In other countries, sub-national climate policies may be a stepping stone to significant national efforts, as in China. Partly with this in mind, the Harvard Project on Climate Agreements (HPCA) conducted a research workshop in July of this year on “Sub-National Climate Change Policy in China.” Tsinghua University’s Institute of Energy, Environment, and Economy — directed by Professor Zhang Xiliang — hosted and co-sponsored the workshop, which was organized by my colleague at the Harvard Kennedy School, Dr. Robert Stowe. Twenty-seven experts from China, Europe, Canada, India, Australia, and the United States participated (see the photo below). In addition, a group of students observed the workshop, and the Environmental Defense Fund’s China Program hosted a dinner for workshop participants. The Harvard Global Institute provided major support for the project. Here is a link to the full agenda (in both Chinese and English).
Climate change is a global commons problem, and, as such, requires cooperation at the highest jurisdictional level — that is, international cooperation among national governments — if it is to be adequately addressed. Participation by national governments is key, and sub-national governments can also play important roles. Provinces and municipalities around the world have undertaken initiatives — sometimes working together across national boundaries — to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions. These include jurisdictions in the largest-emitting countries — China, the United States, and India — as well as in the European Union.
The Workshop and its Analyses
Participants in the Beijing workshop examined how Chinese provinces and municipalities work with the central government to implement policy — and discussed challenges to such cooperation. They focused to a considerable degree on the implementation of China’s national carbon-pricing system, including approaches to integrating the seven pilot sub-national market-based systems into the new national scheme, scheduled to launch in 2020 (see “What Should We Make of China’s Announcement of a National CO2 Trading System?,” January 7, 2018). Participants also addressed sub-national dimensions of other policy approaches to reducing greenhouse-gas emissions in China.
As we have done with previous HPCA research and policy workshops, participants in the Beijing event are now writing briefs on topics related to their respective presentations. We will edit and compile these short papers in a volume to be released later this year. In the meantime, you can view the PowerPoint presentations from the Beijing workshop:
- China’s National Emissions Trading Program (Zhang Xiliang)
- Ten Drivers Behind Climate Policy Making in China (Qi Ye)
- Creating Sub-National Climate Institutions in China (Michael Davidson)
- Multi-Dimension Post-Assessment of China’s ETS Pilots (Qi Shaozhou)
- Political Economy Framework for Climate Change Policy in China (Christine Wong)
- Canadian Climate Change Policy (Katie Sullivan)
- Sub-National Carbon-Pricing Policy in the USA (Robert Stavins)
- Integration of China’s National ETS with Provincial/Municipal Pilots (Valerie Karplus)
- Introduction of Beijing ETS (Mei Dewen)
- Sub-National Implementation Pathways for the National Pricing System (Goerild Heggelund)
- Assessing Regional Implementation Pathways of National ETS In China (Wu Libo)
The Larger Context
The Beijing workshop was part of a larger initiative of the Harvard Project on Climate Agreements, supported by the Harvard Global Institute, examining and comparing sub-national climate-change policies in China and India. We will conduct a similar workshop in New Delhi next year.
The Harvard Project has previously conducted three workshops addressing climate-change policy in — or related to — China:
- “Bilateral Cooperation between China and the United States: Facilitating Progress on Climate-Change Policy,” June 2015. This was hosted by China’s National Center for Climate Change Strategy and International Cooperation (NCSC). You can read more about this workshop here, and read the full workshop report here.
- “The Design, Implementation, and Operation of China’s National Emissions Trading System,” December 2016. Our host was NCSC. The participants explored technical issues related to the design of China’s emerging national system, including allowance allocation, point of regulation, and price management.
- “Cooperation in East Asia to Address Climate Change,” September 2017. This was hosted by the Harvard Center Shanghai, and supported by the Harvard Global Institute. You can read more about the workshop here, and read the complete volume of briefs based on the workshop here.