Can China meet its ambitious emissions targets?


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This week on Sinica, Kaiser chats with Michael Davidson, a leading scholar on China’s environmental policy, who holds joint appointments at UC San Diego as an assistant professor at the School of Global Policy and Strategy and the Jacobs School of Engineering. Michael unpacks recent announcements out of Beijing, including Xí Jìnpíng’s 习近平 decision to cease all funding for coal-fired power plants outside of China, and explains the linkage between China’s push for non-fossil energy and the recent power shortages that have affected 20 provinces. He also explains China’s new emissions trading scheme, or ETS, and discusses what China still needs to do to meet the ambitious targets set by Xi Jinping last year: reaching peak carbon emissions by 2030, and achieving carbon neutrality by 2060. 

3:26 – Xi Jinping’s announced end to funding for coal-fired generators outside China at UNGA

12:00 – China’s recent power outages and their relationship to emissions reduction

19:32 – The basics of China’s new emissions trading scheme

38:37 – Coercive environmentalism, command-and-control, and market instruments

47:15 – Can U.S.-China competition result in a “race to the top” in emissions reduction?

54:24 – GHG reduction and the Red New Deal

A transcript of this interview is available on


Michael: The Chair, a Netflix show starring Sandra Oh.

Kaiser: Bewilderment, the new novel by the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Overstory, Richard Powers

Mentioned in the show: Valerie Karplus’s paper on China’s ETS; New York Times Magazine piece on The Many Saints of Newark, a Sopranos prequel.