China takes cautious step toward carbon emissions trading

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David Stanway, Reuters

(Reuters) - China launched its first pilot carbon emissions exchange on Tuesday, though plans for a nationwide rollout and efforts to apply the scheme to some polluting heavy industries could be undermined by a slowdown in the world's No.2 economy.

High-emission industries such as aluminum and steel are likely to resist higher costs as they are already battling weak prices due to tepid demand and a persistent supply gut.

"It is a very big concern for Beijing and for local governments - how to strike a balance between controlling emissions and maintaining economic growth especially amid a general slowdown in the economy," said Shawn He, lawyer and carbon specialist at the Hualian legal practice in Beijing.

While the exchange in the southern city of Shenzhen will not immediately lead to a big cut in China's emissions of climate-changing greenhouse gas, now the world's highest, it does still represent a statement of intent by Beijing, campaigners said.

"This is just a baby step when you look at the total quantity of emissions, but it enables China to establish institutions for carbon controls for the first time," said Li Yan, head of environmental group Greenpeace's climate and energy campaign in China.

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