Top polluter China unveils nationwide carbon market

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Beijing (AFP)

China, the world's biggest polluter, unveiled plans on Tuesday for a national carbon market likely to become the largest exchange for emissions credits on Earth.

China bears the ignominious title of top greenhouse gas emitter, burning more coal than every other country. The dirty fuel still accounts for roughly 60 percent of its energy consumption.

The country is also the largest investor in renewable energy and is seen as a potential leader in the fight against climate change as the US retreated from the Paris accord struck in 2015.

The emission exchange outlined by officials from China's National Development and Reform Commission may slowly change the calculus for utilities and other coal burners.

"The purpose of this programme is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions," said NDRC vice chairman Zhang Yong.

"We aim to reduce emissions through market-based mechanisms."

The immediate focus for establishing the carbon credits exchange is on the power generation industry, Zhang said.

Some 1,700 electric companies emitted more than three billion tons of carbon, Zhang said, noting that is where the scheme will begin.

The project expands on the lessons learned from seven provincial and city carbon exchanges.