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Green finance: Cleaning up in China

Baffled at first by the unwonted benevolence of the clean development mechanism, Chinese enterprises rapidly jumped on the carbon trading bandwagon. There have been instances where companies have metaphorically as much as literally cleaned up – either way the net effect is beneficial to the environment. Chris Wright reports.

Green finance special section

Can restriction talk be more than hot air?


CHINA IS RENOWNED for its opportunism but it takes a special kind of entrepreneurial zest to make money out of your own pollution. In the curious world of carbon trading, China accounts for perhaps half of all credits traded with the west, as unseen utilities half a world away effectively pay to build wind farms and clean up freon plants the length and breadth of China.

China is at the heart of the clean development mechanism, or CDM. This is one of the key initiatives that came out of the Kyoto Protocol, and is aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions while encouraging sustainable development in emerging markets. The idea is that any company or institution can invest in greenhouse gas-reducing projects in the developing world, for which they earn credits that can be used to offset their own emissions, or be sold in the open market. These credits are formally known as certified emissions reductions, and are often called carbon credits.

In essence: build something beneficial to the environment in China, offset your own pollution in the UK or the US.

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