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Carbon Prices in Asia Are Too Cheap to Help Curb Emissions

Prices and taxes on emissions in the region are well below levels estimated to have a meaningful impact on polluter behavior.

Smoke billows from an industrial complex in Ulsan, South Korea.

Smoke billows from an industrial complex in Ulsan, South Korea.

Photographer: SeongJoon Cho/Bloomberg

More Asian governments are putting prices on emissions to try and curb global warming, but the region’s carbon markets and taxes are mostly off to slow and disappointing starts. 

Carbon prices in China and South Korea are at just fractions of where they are in the European Union and also well below levels estimated to have a meaningful impact on the climate, while taxes in Japan and Singapore have been set at very low levels. That suggests these markets -- at least at their current trajectories -- aren’t going to be sufficient to change the behavior of polluting industries or help countries reach their net zero goals.