China Tempers Climate Change Efforts After Economic Officials Limit Scope

China’s top economic planners have put the brakes on attempts by environmental officials to reduce carbon emissions as driving growth takes priority over meeting climate targets for now, according to people familiar with the matter.

Officials at China’s main economic planning agency, the National Development and Reform Commission, have limited the initial scope of a national carbon-trading system, which is set to go into full operation later this month after pilot projects in eight Chinese cities.

The economic planning office has also gained the upper hand in negotiations over drafting a detailed road map to fulfill leader Xi Jinping’s pledges to achieve a peak in carbon-dioxide emission before 2030 and net zero emissions by 2060, the people said.

The environmental ministry has risen in prominence over the past decade and had in recent months appeared to be newly empowered to exert more influence, but the recent developments show the economic agency, which sets China’s energy and emissions targets, still has greater clout.

The dynamic of competing environmental and economic priorities is hardly unique to China. Lawmakers in the U.S. have blocked attempts to pass a national cap-and-trade market for carbon emissions over concerns about the impact on businesses and the economy, although California and states in the northeast have adopted their own systems.

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