【英语财经】难以看懂的中国碳交易市场 China’s hazy carbon trade baffles expert critics

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2014-5-15 06:38

小艾摘要: One man is scrolling slowly through his emails. Another is flopped across his desk doing a good imitation of being asleep.It is a Wednesday afternoon at the China Beijing Environment Exchange, a centr ...
China’s hazy carbon trade baffles expert critics
One man is scrolling slowly through his emails. Another is flopped across his desk doing a good imitation of being asleep.

It is a Wednesday afternoon at the China Beijing Environment Exchange, a centrepiece of China’s closely watched efforts to test carbon markets, and the action is not exactly frenzied.

“There are currently around two to three trades a day,” says Yang Wang, the exchange’s carbon trading centre director.

That is up from two or three a week in November, when Beijing became the third of four Chinese cities and two provinces to launch a pilot emissions trading system since June.

With more schemes on the way, experts say China will soon be regulating about 1 gigatonne of carbon dioxide, or nearly 10 per cent of the annual emissions that make it the world’s biggest carbon polluter.

As prices languish in the largest carbon market in the EU and Australia ditches plans for a carbon tax, environmental activists have seized on China’s efforts as proof that action to tackle climate change is far from dead.

However, nearly a year into the test run, the pilot schemes are provoking considerable bafflement and frustration among those trying to grapple with a carbon market with Chinese characteristics.

“It’s a black hole,” says one international carbon trading expert, explaining that the customary reluctance of officials to release information makes it hard to understand how market prices are being set.

Carbon markets, also known as cap and trade or emissions trading schemes, are designed to put a price on carbon dioxide, the main man-made greenhouse gas warming the atmosphere, to spur cleaner factories and greener investments.

Governments running such markets first calculate how many tonnes of carbon dioxide are emitted in their jurisdiction each year and then set a cap, or limit, on emissions.

They then create allowances, also known as permits and carbon credits, that are each equal to a tonne of carbon dioxide and together add up to the size of the cap, which is publicly disclosed. The allowances are auctioned off or given away to the companies that have to comply with the scheme. Each company has to surrender allowances equal to its annual carbon emissions, which are also publicly available.

Businesses without enough allowances can buy more from companies with spares, or on the open market, meaning allowance prices should rise and fall depending on whether companies are thought to have enough permits or not.

At least, that is the theory. When the EU launched its carbon market in 2005, it based its allocation of allowances on what turned out to be exaggerated company estimates of past emissions. Prices crashed from about ¢30 to nearly zero in 2007.

In China, officials have divulged the size of the overall cap in most markets, but not always the historic emissions data on which the caps are based, nor the precise number of allowances handed out. Even the names of the companies getting them is not always known, making it hard to understand exactly what is driving prices.

“Without that public information the pricing mechanism is quite opaque,” says carbon market analyst Hongliang Chai of Thomson Reuters Point Carbon.

Prices have been as high as Rmb130 in the southeastern city of Shenzhen; around Rmb20 in Hubei province and about Rmb50 in Beijing, often on very small trading volumes.

Liquidity is unlikely to increase unless people can understand market conditions better, says Jeff Swartz, international policy director at the International Emissions Trading Association.

“Right now the emissions trading markets in China are not able to supply that information but for them to achieve maturity, market participants need to know the fundamentals of supply and demand,” he adds.

Still, Chinese carbon market experts urge tolerance.

“People need to be patient,” says Qian Guoqiang, strategy director at SinoCarbon, a Beijing consultancy. In other countries, companies had to report their emissions data for several years, making it relatively easy to calculate what their caps should be, but China did not have this data, he says.

“We have a lot of work to do, but this is not important. What is important is that the pilot markets have begun, they are moving. In that sense, they are remarkable,” Mr Qian adds.

Xie Zhenhua, a vice-chairman at the powerful economic planning ministry driving the markets’ development, says the schemes are an important factor in China’s efforts to create a low carbon economy.

“We will try to set up a national carbon market by 2020,” he says.

This might be the world’s largest carbon market but, as so often in China, it also may be unlike any seen before.

一个男人在慢悠悠地滚动浏览着自己的电子邮件,另一个则扑通一声趴到桌上装睡。

这是北京环境交易所(China Beijing Environment Exchange)一个周三下午的一幕。该交易所是中国试水碳市场的一个核心机构,中国的这一努力备受瞩目,但进展得并不热烈。

这家交易所的碳交易中心主任王阳说:“现在每天大概有两三笔交易。”

这还是从去年11月每周两三笔交易的基础上涨起来的,当时北京在去年6月启动的五市两省碳排放交易试点系统中,成为第三个试点。

随着更多计划即将出台,专家表示中国很快就能调控10亿吨左右二氧化碳的排放,占其年碳排放量的近10%。中国目前的碳排放量已使之成为世界最大的碳污染国。

随着全球最大的欧盟碳市场的价格陷入低迷,加上澳大利亚放弃征收碳排放税,环保主义者抓住了中国碳市场这根稻草,以之证明应对气候变化的行动还远未失败。

然而,试水近一年后,这些试点计划却让那些努力适应有中国特色碳市场的人,产生了相当大的困惑和挫折。

“这是个黑洞。”一位国际碳交易专家评论道,他解释说由于官员习惯性排斥信息发布,外界很难理解市场价格是如何设定的。

碳市场也叫总量管制和交易体系,或排放交易体系,旨在为二氧化碳(令大气升温的主要人造温室气体)的排放定价,激励工厂减排,促进更环保的投资。

政府在运行这类市场时,先是计算出其管辖范围内每年有多少吨二氧化碳排放,然后设定一个排放总量,或限额。

然后他们制定配额(也称碳排放许可和碳信用),每份配额等于1吨二氧化碳,全部加起来就得到了排放总量,总量要向社会公示。配额通过拍卖或分配的方式分给那些必须遵守该计划的公司。各公司每年必须提供等于其年二氧化碳排放量的碳排放许可,其排放量也要公之于众。

配额不足的公司可从配额有余的公司购买,或在公开市场购买,这意味着配额价格的升降应取决于市场是否认为企业拥有足够的碳排放许可。

最起码在理论上是这样。当欧盟在2005年启动碳市场时,是根据各公司估计的历史排放量来分配配额,结果这些评估值被证明过度夸大。碳价从30欧元左右一路暴跌,到2007年跌到零附近。

中国官员公布了多数市场的整体总量,但不会总是披露总量所依据的历史排放数据,更别提配额分配的精确数值。就连得到配额的公司的名称,外界有时也无从得知,使人难以理解到底什么在拉动价格。

汤森路透碳点(Thomson Reuters Point Carbon)的碳市场分析师柴洪亮说:“没有公开信息,价格机制是相当不透明的。”

中国东南部城市深圳的碳价一度高达130元人民币,而湖北省的碳价才在20元人民币左右,北京碳价大约为50元人民币,这些市场的交易量通常也非常小。

国际排放交易协会(International Emissions Trading Association)国际政策主管杰夫?斯沃茨(Jeff Swartz)认为,除非人们能更好地了解行情,否则流动量不太可能增加。

他还说:“现在中国的排放交易市场还无法提供行情信息,但市场要想成熟,市场参与者就需要了解供需的基本面。”

不过,中国碳市场专家呼吁人们以宽容的态度来看待这一问题。

北京咨询公司中创碳投(SinoCarbon)的战略总监钱国强说:“大家要有耐心。”他说在其他国家,各公司必须上报数年的排放数据,这让它们的排放上限较易计算,但中国并没有这方面数据。

钱国强补充说:“我们要做的工作还有很多,但这不重要。重要的是试点市场已经启动了,它们正在前进。从这个角度来说,它们是意义非凡的。”

中国发改委副主任解振华表示,该计划是中国创造低碳经济行动的重要环节。发改委是一个强大的经济计划权力部门,推动着碳市场的发展。

他说:“到2020年,我们将努力建立起全国碳市场。”

这可能会是全世界最大的碳市场,但就像在中国常发生的,它也可能变成谁也没见过的样子。

译者/曲雯雯

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