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Penalties and Incentives for Compliance in Chinese Emissions Trading Pilots


Steven Geroe

This paper evaluates penalties and incentives to compliance in China’s seven sub-national pilot Emissions Trading Schemes (ETS): financial penalties, deductions of emissions allocations; ‘indirect regulation’, or penalising non-compliance with ETS obligations under other laws; limiting access to state subsidies and other preferential programmes; ‘green credit’ schemes; extension of deadlines and notices to improve; carbon market rules designed to support market participation/liquidity and thus compliance; and auctioning reserves of permits. It then considers factors impacting on the implementation of compliance measures - including monitoring, reporting and verification issues; political and economic factors influencing administrative decisions; legal enforcement issues in Chinese environmental regulation more generally; capacity building challenges, and the development of market trading rules and institutions. Maintaining a high level of compliance performance under a more ambitious emissions cap, with a higher proportion of auctioned permits, will require more stringent penalties and more developed monitoring, reporting and verification (MRV) implementation. Accordingly, suggestions are offered for selectively adopting compliance measures in the pilots to constitute a functional regulatory ‘toolkit’ for the proposed national ETS. It is concluded that despite substantial implementation challenges, China’s model of low-carbon economic modernisation may provide the basis for adequate compliance mechanisms, enforcement and complementary policy for the proposed national ETS to function effectively.

Dr Steven Geroe is a lecturer in environmental and commercial law subjects at La Trobe University, Melbourne, Australia. For correspondence: <>. DOI: 10.21552/cclr/2017/1/6


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