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One of China’s First Carbon Market Believers Awaits First Trade

Qian Guoqiang has been waiting more than a decade for the world’s biggest polluter to launch a national cap-and-trade system. He hasn’t lost faith

Beijing Sees Orange as Sandstorm Brings Worst Air Since 2017
Photographer: Yan Cong/Bloomberg

Qian Guoqiang thought his luck must finally be changing. China’s surprise declaration last year that it would zero out planet-warming carbon dioxide came on the 22nd day of the ninth month. Qian’s office is in No. 922, located on the ninth floor of a skyscraper in Beijing’s Dongcheng district. At long last, he thought, this must mean China would start trading carbon.

For more than 10 years Qian has waited and waited. He quit a government job in 2010 to co-found SinoCarbon, which he envisioned growing into an army of traders and consultants servicing what would inevitably become the world’s biggest carbon market. Back then China had just set targets for reducing its emissions intensity, a measure of pollution as a share of gross domestic product. Qian was convinced one of the next steps would be the creation a national cap-and-trade system to curb pollution.