‘Leapfrog’ ET: 10 years later

SAIS Magazine, Winter 2018

One of the really nice aspects of life here at HNC is the collegial nature of the faculty – both Chinese and international professors. Most of the international faculty live right on campus, and many of our Chinese colleagues have full-time appointments here…. and every two weeks, we gather together for a faculty luncheon. An alternating Chinese/international professor will make a presentation about his/her current research, or similarly relevant topic – and it was my turn to do so in mid-March.

Over recent years I’ve given presentations about U.S. & Chinese preparations for the Paris Agreement, and post-Paris carbon trading prospects. But Paris decisions won’t be finalized until later this year, and China has decided to take a slow, deliberate, multi-year approach for its own carbon trading – so I decided to take the Energy paper I wrote ten years ago about a conceptual ‘leapfrog’ approach for emissions trading in China…. & to see how things have changed. A presentation entitled ‘Leapfrog’ Emissions Trading in China: Ten Years Later was the result.

The biggest difference, of course, is that the section about real-time markets introduced the idea of using blockchains….. and, as you might suspect, that created quite a lively post-talk Q&A session. China has been the major site of blockchain ‘mining,’ utilizing massive amounts of electricity from coal-fired power plants to solve cryptocurrency puzzles – and finally banned that practice earlier this year. IBM and its Chinese partner see a potential blockchain future for carbon trading, however…. and others do as well for distributed renewable energy systems in particular.

My presentation certainly didn’t resolve the issue…. but it’s a fascinating topic, & the overall presentation suggests that China is indeed making environmental progress – slowly but surely — over time.

That clearly contrasts with the way things are evolving in Washington DC. The Winter 2018 issue of SAIS Magazine had a cover story describing the impacts of the Trump Administration’s decision to leave the Paris Agreement – and kindly gave yours truly the last word.

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